Fanatics shifts uniform factory to produce medical gear

Fanatics, which manufactures official Major League Baseball uniforms in partnership with Nike, is temporarily converting its US factory in Easton, Pennsylvania, to manufacture protective masks and gowns desperately needed by medical professionals battling the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

Masks and gowns are being developed from polyester mesh fabric normally used to make the baseball uniforms. Fanatics had previously closed the 360,000-square-foot factory last week amid government-mandated closures of non-essential industries. But the plant is now reopened for the medical gear effort.

Initial prototypes for the masks and gowns are using material originally intended for uniforms of the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, and bear each club’s pinstripes. Other teams’ materials will be incorporated as the effort expands. The products will be distributed across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, which has become the US epicenter for Covid-19 cases.

“Fanatics and MLB have halted production of all MLB jerseys, and instead are using the same fabric we make the jerseys with to make masks and gowns!,” tweeted Michael Rubin, Fanatics founder and executive chairman, and a part-owner of the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers. “We have approximately 100 associates working (extra distanced and in a very clean and safe environment of course).”

The company has a goal of producing 1 million masks and gowns. The project was developed in roughly a week with the aid of Pennsylvania’s St. Luke’s hospital system, with Pennsylvania state governor Tom Wolf also getting involved. The Fanatics-produced masks would not be approved for surgical use, but given the critical shortages of basic protective equipment, the items still are urgently needed.

The high level of contagion in Covid-19, particularly in its ability to remain on contaminated surfaces, has greatly heightened the need for any sort of protective equipment for medical professionals.

The undisclosed production costs for the baseball uniform conversion effort are being borne by Fanatics and MLB. 

“We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Other sports apparel and equipment makers have done similar conversions, as hockey brand Bauer and lacrosse helmet maker Cascade are now producing protective face shields for medical workers.