The garment manufacturer that produces the uniforms worn by Major League Baseball players, is switching over its production to produce face masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment that is desperately needed by health care workers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, ABC News reports.
Normally at this time, Fanatics would be pumping out the hundreds of uniforms required for the MLB season, from its Philadelphia-area factory. Now, pretty much all sports are postponed until further notice, as people across the country practice social distancing, and gathering in large crowds is out of the question.
With "miles" of fabric not otherwise being put to use, Fanatics founder and executive chairman Michael Rubin said that now is the time to put the facility to use manufacturing more important garments.
In the past week or so, multiple people had reached out to Rubin to discuss putting the factory to work making personal protective equipment (PPE). Officials from St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem spoke to Fanatics late last week about the possibility of the company manufacturing masks. Similarly, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro also each contacted Rubin over the weekend and asked him about producing masks and gowns, which the Keystone State needs desperately to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Rubin says he discussed the idea with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
"[I asked him], 'we've got a million yards of fabric that we make these baseball uniforms from, what would you think if we take that fabric and make masks and gowns," Rubin said.
Within a few days, Fanatics had produced a prototype mask, which the state's emergency agency approved. By Tuesday, the factory had stopped producing MLB uniforms and had switched to producing masks and gowns, exclusively.
"The most important thing is we've got to help the heroes on the front line and baseball can help play a role in it," Rubin said.
Initially, Fanatics had been deemed a "non-essential" business, and had been forced to idle production. However, now about 100 of its employees are back to work.
Rubin hopes his workers can produce 15,000 masks and gowns per day. He hopes to have about a million garments produced within the next few months.
What's more, the garments are being given to the health care industry at no cost, to the tune of a loss of about $3 million to the company.
Meanwhile, Rubin says that Philadelphia Phillies fans, eager to get their hands on a Bryce Harper jersey, will just have to wait a while.
"We're less worried about manufacturing jerseys and more worried about just saving lives," he said.