Jerry Schemmel, photo courtesy of Westword.com
Two weeks ago, I got a personal email from an unfamiliar email address. It read simply:
Hey Andrew, I just wanted to say I love the website! Great job with it! - Jerry Schemmel
After growing up listening to Schemmel call games in the days of Dikembe Mutombo and Bryant Stith, getting an email from the longtime Nuggets announcer was more surreal than taking a picture with Huston Street. I thanked him immensely for his unsolicited compliments, and his response was that Purple Row is a "great resource for Rockies fans everywhere" and he would be happy to do anything for us if we let him know.
Naturally, I asked him for an interview.
Purple Row currently has open relationships with members of the Rockies written media and even inside the organization, but the audio and video media had been untapped until now.
Schemmel received unanimously positive reactions from the Row upon his hire. He can survive plane crashes and 11-71 seasons, saving babies and potentially lost listeners in the process. Now he has landed his dream job, broadcasting major league baseball for a talented team in his own backyard. Schemmel makes his debut in 24 hours with Jack Corrigan in Milwaukee.
The transcript of the interview follows.Andrew T. Fisher: Your broadcasting style with the Nuggets was distinctly energetic and fast-paced. How challenging is it to rewire your style to the more laid-back commentary native to baseball broadcasts?
Jerry Schemmel: It has been and will be a challenge, but I'm confident I will make the adjustment. I have broadcast plenty of baseball in the past. I just have to keep reminding myself to slow down. Hopefully, it becomes second nature for me very soon.
ATF: To go along with the previous question, how challenging is it going from a one-man show to a two-man team with Jack Corrigan?
Schemmel: Working with a partner, I don't think, will be a big deal for me at all. Especially Jack Corrigan. Jack is a true professional and a great gentleman and has been incredible in helping me with the transition. I think baseball is made for a two man booth.
ATF: Obviously the required question: with Opening Day (tomorrow), have you settled on a home run call? Will we get "JUMANJI?" "GOT ITTT!!!" "Mom - the meatloaf!!!"?
Schemmel: Wow, that is a very often asked question since I got the job. I'm shocked at how many people want to know about a home run call. I have one but can't reveal it yet. Hopefully I will get a chance in the Milwaukee series.
ATF: How closely did you follow the Rockies and their personnel before being hired, and how much supplementary research was required before getting behind the mic?
Schemmel: I am a huge baseball fan. My father was a semi-pro player and I was lucky enough to play the game in college and coach at the high school and college level. I naturally became a big follower of the Rockies when they came to town and have been ever since. I still did a lot of research before I went on the air in spring training. I am sure I over-prepare but that's always the way I've done it.
ATF: What do you think your strengths and weaknesses are as a baseball broadcaster?
Schemmel: I think right now my weaknesses are a lack of a lot of major league experience behind the mic and the tendency to go too fast in a slower sport. In spring training I found myself searching for the right words and phrases for the right time in the game. Hopefully that comes with repetition and experience. I think my strengths are a passion for the game, knowledge of the game and a great desire to improve quickly as a baseball announcer.
ATF: You commented in a Denver Post Q&A that being an MLB radio man had been a longtime goal of yours. According to Mark Knudson, you applied for the Rockies' job when Wayne Hagin left seven years ago, but the KOA executives were "uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a second consecutive former Nuggets announcer." (Jeff Kingery also used to broadcast Nuggets games). Can you speak to how that unfolded and how circumstances have since changed?
Schemmel: I think the biggest reason I didn't get the Rockies job back then was that they found a top notch broadcaster in Jack Corrigan. They just couldn't turn him down. He had 18 years of MLB experience at that time and was one of the best in the game. My not getting that job actually turned out to be a blessing. The Nuggets had some great seasons after that and I was able to ride my bicycle across the country twice in the summer, something I thoroughly enjoyed.
ATF: This isn't the first time you have replaced an announcer whose voice was synonymous with the team (Colorado State's late Rich Bircumshaw). How do you approach replacing a familiar voice and personality?
Schemmel: I have been asked that question a lot. At CSU and now with Rockies, I can't be terribly concerned about that. I just feel I need to be as prepared as I can be for every game and do the best job I can when I'm on the air. That's all I can ask of myself. I know that no matter how I sound, there will be people who like me and there will people who don't like me. It's the nature of the business. And if a broadcaster gets caught up in all that, he gets himself in trouble.
ATF: With CSU's football and basketball schedule largely coinciding with the baseball offseason, will you continue to broadcast for Colorado State?
Schemmel: I'm not sure about CSU. We are going to sit down soon and discuss it. There are a lot of challenges with the schedules.
ATF: In October 2008, the Rocky Mountain News' Chris Tomasson reported that you were going to only broadcast home games in the 2008-2009 Nuggets season so that you could spend more time at home with your children. I take it getting paid to watch 162+ major league baseball games is too good of a deal to pass up?
Schemmel: Well, the travel is still a concern for me. But we discussed the Rockies travel as a family as decided we can make it work. In fact, there are advantages over the Nuggets schedule. My kids are 17 and 11 now and never got to see that many Nuggets games because the schedule was during the school year. Now, with them being out of school, they can attend many more games. Plus, they can meet me on the road, which was something they couldn't do before. So my wife has three trips planned already. Everybody is excited.
ATF: How do you feel online outlets such as Purple Row have shaped the face of baseball reporting and fandom? (question from Andrew Martin)
Schemmel: To be very honest, and I might be embarrassed to admit this, but I don't read online blogs all that much. When I was with the Nuggets, I used to read some blogs and some of the stuff was so bizarre and so far from the truth with the team that I sort of just quit reading. But I also know it's a great way for fans to be involved. Blogs like this one serve a purpose, as long as people are having fun with them.
ATF: How did you stumble upon Purple Row, and did you follow Nuggets and Rams blogs while broadcasting for their respective teams?
Schemmel: A friend of mine, a big Rockies fan, told me about Purple Row. I never knew it existed until a few months ago.
ATF: Let's move things more towards the team. In your first on-air interview this spring, with Tim Redding, you commented several times about how quiet and loose the clubhouse was. What other impressions do you have about the roster off the field?
Schemmel: This a very serious, focused group. And I think there are two reasons for that. One is by design. Dan O'Dowd is a firm believer, like I am, that character wins. He has put together a very talented roster full of good people. Secondly, I think this team is so focused on winning a World Series Title that they have little time for anything else.
ATF: The Rockies have never before been given this much positive attention before the season, from Buster Olney's World Series Champion prediction, to Sports Illustrated tabbing them as the favorite in the NL, to being the most common pick to win the division. How do you feel a team who has suffered three consecutive poor starts will respond to such praise?
Schemmel: I honestly think this team is embracing the attention and hype. They want it. They know how good they are and they understand that with greatness comes expectations and with expectations comes pressure. Having gone through what they have the last three seasons, I think they are ready. They know what it takes and they are ready for that ride.
ATF: Which minor league player impressed you the most in Tucson?
Schemmel: There were two. Catcher Wilin Rosario and pitcher Samuel Deduno. Neither is ready for the big leagues yet but Rosario has tremendous natural power, has a good feel for the game defensively and loves to play. Deduno has a that classic pitchers body and has a real live arm. He showed a couple flashes during spring training, throwing the mid 90's with great movement.
Schemmel: That fact that they have a chance. That they have a good enough team to win big. We played some teams in spring training that you knew had no shot at a title. To have that talented everyday line-up, with a strong starting rotation and bull-pen, with a great bench and a great manager, that allows you to compete for a championship. That fact that it's possible is very, very exciting.
ATF: Are you nervous for Monday?
Schemmel: A little. But that's probably good. I know this - I won't be as nervous as I was for that first spring training game. I was a wreck that day.
ATF: Alright. I can't let you off the hook without getting a prediction in writing for the season. (Question from Russ Oates)
Schemmel: I wish I could make a prediction. But I learned a long time ago that when broadcasters make predictions for their teams, they can get themselves in a pickle. How about this - the Rockies are going to be very, very, very good!
ATF: What will you send Jeff Kingery after the Rockies win the World Series this year, the first year in Rockies history that Kingery is not behind the mic?
Schemmel: I'm not sure what I might give Jeff. I think dinner at his favorite restaurant would be a good start.
ATF: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer questions for Purple Row. Do you have anything else you would like to share with the Purple Row staff and community?
Schemmel: Yea, tune Jack and I in this year if you can. It's gonna be a blast!