Denver Nuggets backers have had to make do with less Jerry Schemmel than they'd like; the team's longtime radio broadcaster has only been calling home games of late.
But before long, Nugs fans will have to go cold turkey. Schemmel has accepted the job to serve as the radio voice of the Colorado Rockies. Denver's game against the Charlotte Bobcats on January 25, a week from today, will be the last he'll call for the Nuggets.
Schemmel's got plenty of reasons for making the move, including one that may surprise some Nuggets fans, if not close watchers of his career: "Baseball has been my first love from day one."
And that love has lasted. He played baseball "in college and beyond," he says -- but his big break as a broadcaster came in basketball. As documented in our 2001 Schemmel piece, his first high-profile post was as the TV frontman for the then-woeful Minnesota Timberwolves from 1990 to 1992. After that, he moved over to the Nuggets, and he's been a staple of their broadcast team ever since.
Nevertheless, that baseball itch never quite went away. In 2007, he spent part of the year broadcasting games for the Billings, Montana, Mustangs, the Cincinnati Reds' rookie-league squad. And in 2008, Schemmel was hired as Metro State's baseball coach, following two years as a volunteer assistant -- a gig that precipitated his switch to home games-only for the Nuggets even as it gave an opportunity to veteran sidekick Jason Kosmicki, who'll soon be taking over Nuggets duties fulltime.
Unfortunately, Schemmel's time in the dugout was relatively short-lived. "I left Metro last July," he says. "I just couldn't juggle everything." But he still nursed baseball dreams. In his words, "I love the game so much, and I love broadcasting so much. I thought, if I could put the two of them together, it would be the perfect combination."
Lucky for him, a chair in the Rockies' broadcasting booth opened up when Jeff Kingery announced his retirement amid whispers that he'd been pushed instead of jumping. Schemmel will pair with holdover Jack Corrigan. "I've known him since he came to town seven years ago," he says. "We have a great relationship. He's a terrific guy, and I'm looking forward to working with him."
He's also excited about spending more times with his kids, ages ten and seventeen -- something he'll be able to do even though there are roughly twice the number of games in the Major League Baseball regular season as in an NBA campaign.
"The seasons are about the same length," Schemmel points out, "but the off-seasons are different. My kids are in sports during the school year, and I'll be able to see them a little more often. And since they're out of school during the summertime, we'll be able to meet up on the road a lot more than we could with basketball. With the Nuggets, they were able to join me on a trip maybe once every couple of years."
As he anticipates his new gig with KOA, the Rockies' radio home (it starts February 1), Schemmel can't help looking back at his years with the Nuggets. His favorite memories?
"Probably number one is 1994, when the Nuggets were the eighth seed in the playoffs, and they upset Seattle, the first seed," he recalls. "And then the next series, where they took Utah to seven games. That was a tremendous two weeks, a great highlight of my career. And there was last year, when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals and played the Lakers."
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The Nuggets are performing at a high level again this year, too, in stark contrast to their mostly dismal run in the '90s, which Schemmel had to watch their futility night in and night out. Likewise, the Rockies have made it to the postseason twice in recent years, and he's optimistic that they'll "be very competitive again. They've got a great mix of young and old, with solid defense, solid starting pitching, and their hitting is way above average.
"You never know with baseball, but I think they're primed to do something like they did last year. I think they've got all the bases covered, if you will."
At this point, Schemmel hasn't come up with a home-run call. He didn't use a standard phrase in Montana, either; he jokes that "I did what I've done my whole life -- stole stuff from other people." Still, he says, "I've got some ideas."
Stay away from "Nothing but the bottom of the net!"