'Wrexham' owner, Phillies fanatic McElhenney enjoys ties to baseball's top team this season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Rob McElhenney is usually filming something -- presently interviews for the docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham” and he’s about to wrap another season of “Mythic Quest” -- but no matter where the actor is, a Philadelphia Phillies game is just about always on.

“Pretty religiously, actually,” he said.

So far, the 47-year-old Philly native -- who counts former great Chase Utley as a close friend and has golfed with 2008 World Series champions Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins -- sees a championship looming for Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Zack Wheeler and the rest of a team that already boasts 60 wins entering Thursday and has the best record in baseball.

“I like our chances, especially with Bryce coming back,” McElhenney said of a recent hamstring injury. “We’re in a good position.”

McElhenney has been about as much a part of the fabric of the Philly sports scene of late as Harper or Joel Embiid or Jason Kelce. The “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star was busted earlier this year watching an Eagles playoff game on his phone at the Emmy Awards. He pops up with wife and “Sunny” co-star Kaitlin Olson on a rally video during Phillies home games. His drink specials for his Irish American Whiskey brand are for sale at Citizens Bank Park -- the low, low price of $14.99 for a single or $22.99 if you make it a double.

When the Phillies played in London last month, McElhenney skipped throwing a traditional first pitch and opted for a ceremonial double play. Stationed at shortstop, he lobbed the ball to Utley, who relayed it to Harper at first base ahead of a game against the Mets.

“The Bryceman Cometh” T-shirt, written in “Sunny” font in a nod to a favorite show episode, are sold throughout the region.

“I don’t have one yet,” McElhenney said, “but I love that we’re part of the cultural zeitgeist.”

McElhenney has more Philly ties this weekend, when he golfs in the American Century Championship in Nevada. It’s another chance for him to shoot the breeze -- and maybe under par -- with Utley in a foursome on Friday that includes 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer.

McElhenney and Utley’s friendship blossomed over a “Sunny” episode that aired in 2009 and led off a storyline that has stretched for the last 15 years. Utley and Harper filmed a promotional video for the London series that played off the arc.

“I’ve spent a fair amount of time with (Utley), mostly playing golf,” McElhenney said. “He’s legitimately funny and can deliver a line. Bryce was a nice surprise. You just try and keep it as natural as possible. Always keep the camera running, that’s the trick with children, animals and professional athletes.”

McElhenney is more known these days for his ties to soccer. McElhenney and actor Ryan Reynolds bought Wales’ Wrexham A.F.C., and turned the team into a winner and a TV show about it into a hit. Reynolds and McElhenney purchased Wrexham, one of the world’s oldest soccer teams, for $2.5 million while the club was in the fifth tier of the English game. It’s now two-tiers away from the top level, known as the Premier League.

McElhenney conceded it was time to bring on other investors should Wrexham keep winning and advance to the top.

“We always knew at a certain point we’d have to bring on some kind of capital partner,” he said. “When you’re talking about teams that are up in championship, Premier League level, you’re competing with sovereign nation wealth. We’ve been holding off for as long as we possibly can. We believe that we can make it through this season or as long as we’re playing in a lower league, or below. But once we get into those upper echelons, it’s a lot more difficult.”

But could an ownership stake in another sports team, say, one closer to his heart be on the horizon? McElhenney has been open about trying to wriggle in to a share of a Philly sports team, and a recent report that stated that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is exploring a sale of a minority stake in the franchise piqued McElhenney’s interest. The “Sunny” actor wrote last month on social media, “Uh… Mr Lurie…. Check your dms pls.”

“Jeffrey has been a fantastic confidant and mentor and counsel throughout my ownership of Wrexham,” he said.

On potentially buying a stake in the Eagles, McElhenney said, “I don’t have any comment on the latter.”

As for “Sunny,” McElhenney said writing on the next season begins in August, shooting starts in the fall and it should wrap before 2025.

Who knows, maybe more Philly sports greats will cameo in future episodes.

“The collaboration with any one of the Philadelphia sports teams, specifically, Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers is certainly welcomed from our end,” McElhenney said.


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