Major League Baseball may be postponed, but the sport is still making an impact.
As baseball fans throughout the country celebrated what would have been the start of this year’s season on Thursday, Fanatics — a company that makes official MLB jerseys — announced that they had “converted” their factory in Pennsylvania in order to make masks and gowns for healthcare workers who are involved in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
“Woke up in the middle of the night last week with idea of converting our @Fanatics factory in PA that makes official @MLB jerseys into a facility that makes much needed masks and gowns and then donating them to help fight this horrendous virus,” Fanatics founder and executive chairman Mark Rubin wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of the finished products, which are made from materials for Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees jerseys.
“This past weekend PA Governor @GovernorTomWolf and Attorney General @PAAttorneyGen each called me saying they desperately needed help getting masks and gowns to the frontline workers across PA,” he wrote, as he explained that moving forward, they would use the “same fabric we make the jerseys with” to produce the much-needed medical supplies.
Rubin went on to share that the company plans to make one million masks and gowns, and then “immediately donate and distribute them to hospitals and emergency management personnel across PA.”
He also hopes to be able to expand donations to include New York and New Jersey, where most of the cases of coronavirus have been reported in the country.
“Thanks to @MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for not only agreeing to halting production of MLB jerseys but also doing everything possible to make this happen as quickly as possible!!” he added. “And thanks to our incredible associates who raised their hands and wanted to be part of the effort to help the frontline heroes in this war stem the spread of the virus!!” “
After Rubin was first contacted about the state’s need for additional masks and gowns last week, Fanatics developed a prototype, which was then approved by the state’s emergency agency on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Although the factory had been shut down earlier in the month, after Gov. Wolf ordered the immediate closure of all non-“life-sustaining” businesses, about 100 workers volunteered to come back in order to make the supplies.
The gowns and masks will be provided to local hospitals for free, with Fanatics and the MLB teaming up to cover costs. Rubin told the AP that it would cost the company around $3 million to make the gowns and masks, which will be used for low-risk, nonsurgical procedures.
“We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding that he was “proud” of the partnership “to help support the brave healthcare workers and emergency personnel who are on the front lines of helping patients with COVID-19. They are truly heroes.”
As of Friday, there are at least 85,381 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, which now has the most cases in the world, and 1,271 people have died from coronavirus-related illnesses.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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