The West Village: A jewel of Bohemian culture and an elegance that makes it one of the most unique areas in the world. Tree-lined sidewalks neglect the rigid structure of the grid that neighbors it to the north. It dons an authentic village feel unrivaled and unique to anywhere else in the city. It is a place where the mania of New York seems to soften, the cars glide along peacefully, and pedestrians never feel in danger.
It is indisputably the neighborhood that most resembles Europe, so it's only fitting that a new company with a European theme would take flight in such a place. The creation of Ball Abroad, an online platform for the global basketball industry, came to fruition at 110 Leroy Street.
The concept was conceived in the Spring of 2009 when I was living in Prague. I was responsible for helping American basketball players adjust to the European lifestyle and gameplay. I noticed that professional basketball players could use more resources when building their careers overseas. Of the dozens of basketball leagues spanning the globe, each has its own defining culture, basketball style, and financial package. The transition from the college game to one where you make money is crucial, and these athletes need the resources to pursue their calling.
The main attraction of Ball Abroad is what is known as Player Speak. Player Speak is a first-hand review written by a player about his experience overseas with a particular club. The review is divided into five sections: Club, Quality of Live, Culture/Social, The Adjustment, and One on One.
Club is a review of the team management itself, excluding interactions with teammates and other outside forces. This is important because there is a high variety in the level of professionalism with which these teams operate. Some teams keep all of their promises, while others are notorious for cutting corners. In Quality of Life, the player reviews living conditions and level of comfort they experienced during their time abroad. The Culture is a review of the food, people, and other aspects of being immersed into a different culture. The Adjustment discusses the gameplay differences between North America and Europe. Finally, in One on One, the player is asked to give advice to those thinking about joining that particular club.
Ball Abroad really came to form once I started working in the West Village. The enchantment of the area seemed to have given me something I desperately needed. There's a lot of creative energy here. On the lower end of 7th Ave. South, there is a keymaking mainstay known as Greenwich Locksmiths. Phil Mortillaro Sr. is a stalwart of the village, an iconic locksmith who's been providing superior service to the village for over 30 years. But he doesn't only run a small locksmith business. His ability to use keys to create art projects is a great talent of his. It is routine that onlookers and residents of the area marvel at his projects and artwork around his shop. You don’t see art too often in such a form.
One day, I needed a couple of keys made and I was told that Greenwich Locksmiths was where I should go. The owner’s son was running the store that day. While I waited, we had a tech conversation which led him saying he was a web developer. Little did I know, this visit to the store would lead to Phil, Jr being my web designer. He would bring the artistic angle to the company that I needed to complement the work of my other partner who was a software engineer.
Phil, Jr. embodies all the entrepreneurial and creative qualities that define the area, as well as what defines New York. It was the perfect partnership, and I’m excited that such a magical place led me to rounding out the web development team of my company.
The creative cluster that is the West Village is now more meaningful to me than ever before.