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Mask-making operation is all Aces for Reno

Season-ticket holders pitch in to raise funds for local hospitals
Using unworn Reno Aces jerseys, Sheila and Joe Wood sewed together 193 face masks in five days.
April 29, 2020

Eric Edelstein had the impulse to pitch in but wasn't exactly sure how."The idea came from trying to do the most good in this time," the Reno Aces president said. "And the two things that I was bouncing against my thought process was supporting our health care workers -- understanding

Eric Edelstein had the impulse to pitch in but wasn't exactly sure how.
"The idea came from trying to do the most good in this time," the Reno Aces president said. "And the two things that I was bouncing against my thought process was supporting our health care workers -- understanding that they were going to be on the front lines in our local community -- and then, secondarily, understanding my own efforts to get masks for myself."

Most important to Edelstein, though, was helping a community that was going through so much.
"How can we support the community with a need that they're going to have that I know right now is difficult?"
He had the material in the form of unworn jerseys in the team's gift shop, and he knew what he wanted to do with them: convert them into masks.
"If we could make masks, sell those masks and then donate that money to our healthcare workers, we could do some real good," he said. "And so from there it was: 'OK, well, how do we make masks?'"
He took to Twitter and quickly found the solution.
On April 5, Jeff and Sheila Wood were doing what many of us are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic: sitting at home and trying to find a way to make a difference.
Season-ticket holders for the Aces for 10 years, they ran across Edelstein's inquiry on Twitter and jumped at the opportunity.
"We saw this and immediately let Eric know that we were available to help in this good cause," Jeff Wood said via email. "I am a retired fireman, Sheila is a retired dispatcher, so we really feel for what the healthcare workers are going through right now. We have been staying at home to do our part, so Eric had about 25 Aces jerseys delivered to our porch. They were brand new, unused players' jerseys."
The Woods worked tirelessly for five days and the end result was 193 masks that the team could sell. The Aces' marketing and PR team put together the package of how to make it look, but Sheila Wood -- quite the seamstress -- added extra touches to make sure the masks were durable.
"Sheila loves to sew, so we tried making a few and found out using ... material she had here on one side with the jersey material on the other side came out better, and that gave two layers and also made them able to be worn with either side out," Wood said.

On April 16, the Aces put the first batch on sale.
"He put them online for $20 each, with all money from these going to the healthcare community," Wood said. "He said they sold out in two hours with proceeds of about $3,600 raised from them, which was so cool for the support of everyone who bought them."
Yet Edelstein still wasn't quite sure where the proceeds should go.
"There are six hospital systems that all feed what we would call our community," he said. "So Northern Nevada being Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and then we look at Truckee and North Lake Tahoe as subsets of our market. So there are six hospitals that we benefited. We called all six of them, asked where that funding should go. And so we got their buy-in and understanding of where it could go.

"The biggest two needs that have emerged, we've been told, are the need for meals because they're working longer shifts and there just isn't the capacity for even 30-minute breaks, so getting the nourishment that they need, proper food is critically important. And then also hotel rooms because there are many that just don't want to go home to their families after spending a day in the environment."

The Woods made such an impact that the Aces decided to put on another sale on April 23. The local embroidery company that stitches the names on the back of the team's jerseys and does alterations for players' pants got involved, too.

"They reached out and said that they had the capacity to do more masks if we had more jerseys," Edelstein said.

Fifty masks sold out in nine minutes.

Of course, all of this has happened while the entire Reno staff has been separated and working from home. Edelstein said he's proud of how the organization is making its way through this strange and challenging time.

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"Necessity is the mother of invention," he added. "We were forced to get our act together pretty quickly, virtually. And I think we did. It's a lot of Zoom meetings, but it's also adjusting how we're reporting and how we're managing people throughout it."

Meanwhile, the Woods have become celebrities in the Reno area, with television stations spotlighting their good deed and the Aces' podcast bringing them on for a segment. Yet the publicity means nothing compared to what they've done for the community.

"We never expected any press or anything in return, it just makes us feel so good to be able to help others out," Wood said, adding that the team is looking out for its fans, too.

"... Our friends called us and said the Reno Aces staff were personally calling the season-ticket holders this past week, just to check on everyone, to see how they were doing and asking if they needed any help out with anything. The Reno Aces and this community are really pulling together during this. Makes us proud to live here and be a part of the baseball family here."

Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.