Some Montrealers have an impact on the local baseball culture and community through their contributions on the field or in the dugout. One local business owner is hacking into Montreal baseball culture in a most unexpected way.
Warren Wilansky is the President and Founder of Montreal-based digital design agency Plank. He’s also a huge baseball fan.
Over the last few years, Wilansky has combined his passion for baseball with his work as a digital design entrepreneur.
He has embarked on a number of passion projects that mix his business with baseball. He hopes those projects help to build a lasting baseball culture in Montreal.
Rediscovering an Old Love
Wilansky developed his love for baseball at an early age. Like so many other kids in Montreal, he played Little League and watched the Expos at Olympic Stadium.
“My earliest baseball memory was going to the Olympic Stadium in the late 1970’s with my father and sitting in the bleachers,” Wilansky recalled. “I vividly remember seeing the names Cromartie, Dawson and Valentine staring at me from the backs of their jerseys.”
Over time, Wilansky’s interest in the game waned as his beloved Expos became a mismanaged mess before moving to Washington. Like so many other Montrealers, he distanced himself from baseball. It took him years to rediscover his love of the game.
“In 2009, it was rekindled with the passion of a million white hot suns after visiting Wrigley Field for the first time. It was on those hallowed grounds that I remembered what I loved about the game,” Wilansky said.
“I love that the game is slow, the season long and the pace muted until action springs out of the pitcher’s hand or a hitter’s bat,” he explained.
It would’t take Wilansky long to find creative ways to combine his work life with his rekindled passion for baseball.
Teaming up with Montreal Baseball Project
As Wilansky explains in a blog post on Plank’s website, he rediscovered his love of baseball around the same time another Warren with Montreal ties embarked on his own baseball odyssey.
Warren Cromartie, who Wilansky grew up watching at the Olympic Stadium, started the Montreal Baseball Project in 2012. For those who don’t know about Cromartie’s mission, the Montreal Baseball Project hopes to bring a Major League Baseball team back to Montreal.
Wilansky soon understood that promoting the passion for baseball in this city was an important step towards getting a team back.
He was no longer just a young fan watching Cromartie from the stands. Wilansky was now the leader of a successful digital design agency. Therefore, he felt he could help Cromartie on his quest to bring a team back to the city.
“A few years ago, I approached the Montreal Baseball Project to modernize their website and they gladly accepted our help. I felt that for Montreal Baseball Project to be taken seriously as the main lobby group to bring a team back, that they needed a world class site,” Wilansky told MTL Baseball.
Outside of Plank’s collaboration with Cromartie’s group, Wilansky has found other ways to fit baseball into his agency’s work.
Growing the Montreal Baseball Culture and Community Through Creativity
On March 25, Plank will host its third annual Montreal Baseball Hack Day. The Baseball Hack Day started in Boston in 2012. The event allows participants to collaborate on a baseball-themed digital project over the course of one day.
Over the past few years, Wilansky kept in touch with the original Boston event organizer. Finally, he decided to start a Montreal chapter of the event in 2015. He believes events like the Hack Day can play a crucial role in building a stronger local baseball community.
“What I like about the event is that it extends out to a community that traditional baseball marketing and outreach would not consider,” Wilansky explained. “I think that designers and developers have a different and interesting take on how they see and interact with sports. It shows that non-traditional communities should be a part of baseball culture.”
He also thinks it’s important to connect different groups in the local community through baseball in order make baseball culture sustainable in Montreal.
“I would love to see and I think deep relationships can be generated with musicians, artists and filmmakers. Heck, one of our judges is a poet who has written a book about baseball,” Wilansky continued. “Building relationships with these groups of people is going to ensure that baseball becomes a part of the soul of our city.”
Developing Your Own Passion Project
Warren Wilansky has managed to integrate his passion for baseball into his work as a digital entrepreneur with Plank. But, he also believes it’s important for everyone to have a personal passion project.
While it began as a way to track the games he and other contributors attended, he now wants to expand the scope of the site.
“What I’m working on now is making it into more than just an archive of games that I attend. It’s clear that it needs to be more than that to generate any interest or traffic,” Wilansky conceded. “So, I’m looking to get a few different people involved to shape the vision and make it a unique place for baseball fans to visit.”
Wilansky believes that investing in your interests can help you grow as a person while making an impact on your community. His passion projects allowed him to learn a lot about himself and build new relationships.
While his passion projects have helped fill the void the Expos left behind, something is still missing. Like so many Montrealers, Wilansky is still waiting for his team to come back to Montreal.
“But seriously, how could someone not be passionate about having a beer and hot dog in July, in an open air stadium in downtown Montreal while watching our Expos,” Wilansky pondered.
He may be a successful digital entrepreneur, but Warren Wilansky still wishes he could be a kid in the bleachers again.
(Photo of Warren Wilansky: Used with permission of Warren Wilansky of Plank.)