Take GCU grad Ramirez out to the ballgame and …
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the March issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Mark Heller
Counting Vanessa Ramirez’s jobs requires two hands:
- Traffic anchor/reporter for “12 Today” on KPNX Channel 12
- Midday radio host at MEGA 104.3 FM
- In-game entertainment co-host during Arizona Diamondbacks home games
- Host of “Su Vida” TV show on Cox (Ch. 7)
- Founder and organizer of annual “Breathe to Believe” fundraiser for non-smokers lung cancer
- Partner with American Cancer Society
- Advertising model (Peter Piper Pizza, Sanderson Ford, PetSmart and more)
She’s everywhere. It’s no wonder the 35-year-old Phoenix native goes to sleep by sunset most nights in order to wake up at 2:30 a.m. to begin her day. And she has no plans to change her lifestyle in the next few years.
“I am the Energizer Bunny,” she said, “but I love what I do so I make it work.”
She’s made a lot work for herself by working a lot since graduating from Grand Canyon University in 2003 with a B.A. degree in Communications. A neighborhood kid who went to Maryvale High School, Ramirez used a public speaking class during her sophomore year at GCU as a springboard to a career on the airwaves — going against the wishes of her parents, who envisioned her going into medicine. It took a lot of prodding and cajoling before she could give up on being a physician’s assistant.
She commuted to GCU from her parents’ home because Frank and Belinda Ramirez weren’t ready for their only child to leave the nest. She was quiet, unassuming and made one long-term friend from her GCU days, a nun who lives in Chicago.
Public speaking class “broke my shell,” Ramirez said, and she quickly paved her career path.
“I’d get a little nervous talking to a class, but give me a camera where all eyes are on you, and I’m good to go,” she said.
Internships at KISS FM (104.7) and ABC15 followed. She later quit a job to be part of “Vanquish Now,” an independent film that was being shot in Sedona.
While she was in Sedona, the Diamondbacks called about modeling the new uniforms they were unveiling, and she drove back to town. Sitting in the audience that day was Rob Weinheimer, senior director of game operations for the Diamondbacks and DBTV Productions. He’s now her boss.
“She really is a great representative of the Diamondbacks’ brand and what we care about, which is fan-friendly and family-oriented entertainment,” he said. “We never would have guessed she’d be with us this long.”
For years, Vanessa took some “family flak” for how much she works – often at the expense of other aspects of life – but she took on another project that was literally for her parents.
Five years ago, Frank Ramirez lost an 18-month battle with non-smokers lung cancer, and his daughter’s crusade for a cure began. One year prior, Vanessa started the “Breathe to Believe” annual fundraiser.
Her connections around Phoenix have contributed to the $20,000 she has raised, but she puts together 95 percent of the late January event by weaving time and energy around each of her other jobs.
“She’s a daddy’s girl,” Weinheimer said.
Last year she began a partnership with the American Cancer Society as part of its “Rising Star of the Year” campaign to help raise money and awareness for cancer within communities nationwide. She was named the Phoenix chapter’s “Rising Star Woman of the Year.”
“That was special because my mom and friends of my dad were there,” she said.
Dad would have been proud.
“It forever changes you,” she said of her father’s cancer battle. “You’re never the same.”
To that end, this daily schedule might not last forever. Frank and Belinda’s long-held desire to see their daughter scale back could happen in the next few years, especially if marriage and children enter her world someday soon.
She even took a few days for a (gulp) vacation to watch the Arizona Cardinals play in a downpour against the Miami Dolphins last December, and she visited Minnesota, New York and Washington, D.C., for the first time.
But, for now, it was a fleeting fancy. Baseball season is back, and she hates saying no.
“It’s a special kind of thing she’s able to do and not something most of us could do,” said Noah Berlin, the Diamondbacks’ manager of game operations and entertainment. “After a Saturday night game, she’ll sometimes go to another night event and then work a Sunday afternoon game. It’s pretty unique, and she does it well. She’s on top of her game all the time.”
In other words, she keeps going … and going … and going … and going …
“Taking that public speaking class changed everything,” she said. “When I graduated from GCU, my parents sort of let me go. They did their job. I had to debate with them and it took a lot, but I know they’re proud of what I’ve become.”
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or [email protected]