Opening Day came and went.
Mike Trout set the tone with this ad about community (if you look closely you can see Willson Contreras hitting a nerf gun ball off his brother in the driveway):
MLB and the Cubs did as much as they could in the circumstances to fire up fans. In addition to the ad above there were classic games on all day long. You could see Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS where the Red Sox roared back to beat the Yankees en route to defeating the curse of the Bambino. You also had your choice of Cubs World Series games with Game 7 on MLB Network and Game 2 on Marquee Sports Network. If you’re me and were suffering from a bit of insomnia last night, you probably also stayed up and watched the Tuffy Rhodes game on MLB Network as well.
But the most important thing MLB did yesterday was jump into the fight against COVID-19. A Fanatics site in Easton Pennsylvania announced they were revamping the factory where they make jerseys for the Yankees and Phillies to make masks and protective gear for medical workers:
This news hit late Thursday. It’s the kind of news we need more of.... Fanatics, MLB Partner To Make Medical Gowns And Masks To Support Coronavirus Healthcare Workers via @ForbesSports https://t.co/DYLYE6lpkT— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) March 27, 2020
As Fanatics Executive Chairman and partial owner of the Philadelphia 76ers Michael Rubin watched the COVID-19 pandemic develop on the east coast he was contacted by the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, to see if there was a way for Fanatics to help with the medical equipment shortage.
As Maury Brown writes at Forbes there was:
Late Thursday, Major League Baseball, working with Fanatics, which manufactures the official MLB player jerseys, stopped production on clothing for the players, and began making masks and hospital gowns. Fanatics, which is based in Easton, Pennsylvania, has switched its entire 360,000-square-foot manufacturing plant for the effort, using Yankees and Phillies pinstripes for the medical apparel.
Fanatics reports that the gowns and masks will be distributed across New York and Pennsylvania to fight the coronavirus and protect the healthcare community that are on the front lines.
The company plans to produce up to 1 million masks and hospital gowns; however, that number could increase if the outbreak requires it. Major League Baseball and Fanatics are covering all of the costs needed to manufacture the items.
The New York Times reports that the masks are not quite the same quality as the N95s that have been in such short supply. For example, they are not approved for surgical use, however with the nation dealing with a critical shortage of protective gear as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country seeing the nation’s pastime step up in this way even inspired MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred:
Rubin said the state of Pennsylvania offered to pay for the production, but Fanatics and MLB agreed to bear the costs.
“When Michael called me about this, it was the first piece of good news in a while,” Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, said in a telephone interview. “I really hope it’s just the first step in baseball contributing to the country getting back on the road to normalcy.”
The symbolism of baseball jerseys repurposed for medical equipment on Opening Day was not lost on the Commissioner, also from the New York Times:
“I just love the symbolism of patterns that are associated with baseball being used by the people who are carrying a huge burden for all of us,” Manfred said.
At critical moments in our nation’s history baseball has always stepped up. Many of us are likely familiar with the stories of baseball heroes who went to war in World War II. There is no enlistment office for baseball players to join the fight against COVID-19, but thanks to innovative leaders like Rubin their jerseys will be on the frontline protecting our nation’s healthcare workers.