Actor Ty Burrell has love for the underdog

Actor Ty Burrell has love for the underdog

Actor Ty Burrell has love for the underdog
It makes perfect sense that Ty Burrell's two favorite baseball teams would be the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. After all, they're a lot like Phil Dunphy, the character Burrell plays on the hit ABC series Modern Family. They've both had some hapless exploits that made viewers laugh, but every once in a while, against all odds, they've managed to achieve staggering success.

"I generally pull for the underdogs, so I was a Red Sox fan before they won the 2004 World Series," said the 44-year-old Oregon native. "Then my wife, Holly, and I moved to Queens, and discovered that the Mets were just the underdog we were looking for in that city. I was already a Yankees hater, and the Mets were in our backyard. They were completely under-represented in our neighborhood, where everyone wore Yankees caps. So it was an immediate love for the Mets, and I still have that love."

Burrell sat down with MLB Insiders Club Magazine to discuss his love for the game.

So you're not too fond of the Yankees, huh?

I was living in Boston when I really fell in love with the game, so I couldn't help it. And years later, when I lived in New York, I got to go to Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. My wife worked for a bank at the time, and they got us tickets right near third base. They were amazing seats! Unfortunately, they were amazing seats to watch one of the most painful moments in my personal sports history -- Aaron Boone homering off Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees to the World Series.

Since you're such a big Mets fan now, do you remember the first game of theirs you went to?

Sure. My wife and I went to Shea Stadium to see Johan Santana, who was still a Twin at the time. I remember how that really solidified being a Mets fan for her. It was such a fun atmosphere and we had a great day. She bought her first baseball hat, and that sealed the deal.

It's been a rough few years for your team. Has it been difficult for a newcomer to the game like her to maintain enthusiasm during the tough times?

She's had a hard time adjusting to the reality of free agency. I'd forgotten what a traumatic experience that can be for somebody who is just starting to know the players. When I was growing up, there really wasn't much player movement, especially with the football and basketball teams I followed. So the comings and goings of Mets players have been a shock to her system. Nothing has been bigger than Jose Reyes leaving. We were crushed when we heard the news. We really liked him, so his being gone this season is going to be tough for us. I just love the way he plays. Have you had other favorite Mets over the years?

We were big fans of Tom Glavine. By the time he got to the Mets, he didn't have the arsenal he had earlier in his career, but he was still tough on the mound. We're always pulling for the underdogs within the underdogs, the guys who seem to be scrapping by just to make a living and stay in the bigs. We've loved guys like Shawn Green when he came to the Mets, although he was kind of beleaguered during his time in New York. Mike Cameron is another one of our favorites. For us, it's usually not about the biggest names.

From what we've seen on Modern Family, Phil has all the coordination of frying bacon. There doesn't seem to be much athletic prowess going on there. Were you much of a ballplayer growing up?

I played baseball, basketball and football when I was in high school. I was a catcher in baseball, and I loved it. Then one day when I was in my junior year, we got a transfer student from out of town who also played catcher and he was so good. I still remember seeing him in our spring practice and, within five minutes of watching him play, I knew my job was gone. He took my turn in the starting lineup and I went, 'Okay, that's over. I won't be catching.' After that, I tried playing first base and right field, but all I'd ever played in baseball was catcher. It was the one thing I understood. So I didn't play much after that.

Did you enjoy watching games even after you stopped playing?

I didn't really connect with the game again until I was in my 30s. That's when I got to understand how beautiful a game it is. I guess if you're not looking close enough, it can seem boring. But not for me. Now it's my favorite sport.

Why is that? What hooked you?

I really started to get into the head game between pitcher and batter. That is basically all it took for me to understand that every pitch is exciting, that behind every pitch there is a story. I love how you put maybe two on the outside corner and, if you haven't used a breaking ball the entire day, set the batter up for that. There's the pitch count, the whole idea of fatigue playing a role in what he's throwing. It just goes on and on.

Now that you work in Los Angeles, are you still able to make it out to many Mets games?

I go to one or two Mets-Dodgers games every year. And occasionally I'll go to other Dodgers games just to see them play. I'm trying to foster a love for both Los Angeles teams.

Any favorite ballpark foods?

I am an indiscriminate omnivore. I love hot dogs, but I also love the high-end stuff. The food at Citi Field is the very best. It's highbrow and lowbrow. I love it! There's a place called the Shake Shack, where they make the most amazing burgers.

What is it about sports that has you so hooked?

Watching sports allows you to get out these extreme emotions. You're generally not allowed to act this way in civil society. You can scream at the television, you can talk about hating other people without repercussions. It's not entirely real, but there is something satisfying about the whole experience. Following teams allows men to cry in front of other men without shame. And watching sports is the one time I get to see my mom -- who is a really big fan -- badmouth other human beings.

This article appears in MLB Insiders Club Magazine, vol. 5, issue 3. To subscribe and join the Club, Click Here. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.