I’ve been announcing San Francisco Giants’ games for many years and every game is a new experience; it’s more fun than I’d imagined. My first day of announcing was a totally out of body experience! Last week, I heard my voice announcing the Yankees line up and I was beside myself. I mean, I hear my voice saying, “Number 2, Derek Jeter! Number 13, Alex Rodriguez!” And then, Roger Clemens was called to pitch in relief and pitched to Barry Bonds. A rare occurrence indeed!
All my life I’ve been a baseball fanatic. My parents became Dodgers fans as a result of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. My grandfather was a big fan of Negro League baseball long before that. My grandfather even taught my mom how to score games. My mother was pregnant with me in 1958 when the Giants moved here from New York, and she has been a fan ever since. So this team has been a part of my life since I was in the womb! My brother had aspirations of being a big league pitcher. My family has always been into baseball. The A’s and the Giants. When I was growing up, you could actually support both teams and both leagues. Those days are pretty much over!
The Giants are a very progressive organization. There are lots of women in upper management in the organization that you don’t see. The VP of Marketing for the Blue Jays came into the booth to say hello last week. Women are increasingly in heavy-duty positions. And the Bay Area is very tolerant. I feel protected and supported by the guys that I work with; they’re great. We are like family during baseball season. I mean, we see each other more than we see our own families! And some of the guys in their 20s and 30s have told me that they see me as an example; that they learn from me, and I in turn learn from them. You want your work to speak to have that kind of impact. I had no idea what to expect from this group of guys, and they all could not be more supportive and caring.
I’m a Virgo and I have the qualities ascribed to that sign. I strive for perfection. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else ever could! I have a sense of responsibility now, because I am looked at as a pioneer and a trailblazer, so I don’t want to screw it up!! Radio wasn’t a possibility when I was a little girl. I’m so proud to have a little something to do with inspiring young girls and women and changing their thought processes and expanding their possibilities! When I was young, there were few women and even fewer women of color doing what I’m blessed to be doing now. Getting into radio was pretty much a stroke of good luck. Although Oprah Winfrey says there’s no such thing as luck…but rather it’s preparedness and opportunity coming together. When I graduated from college, I took an entry-level job at KCBS, worked my way up and around, and also, I have to say, was in the right place at the right time more often than not. Opportunity meeting Preparation!
I’ve been in the business for over 25 years and it’s not easy to see my male counterparts make more money than I do, and be treated with a great deal more respect and professionalism. But I stay true to myself and keep on pushing, and so far it has served me well. If you stand up for yourself, as a woman, you’re viewed as not being a team player, you’re considered a bitch or too aggressive. But I will ALWAYS stand up for myself. Always. I’ll be as professional and as courteous as I can be, but I will always stand up for myself, and my team for that matter. I’ve been demoted, I’ve had my show taken away and replaced by a syndicated show that turned out to be a failure, but in the words of the great Destiny’s Child, “I am a survivor.” I have my audience to thank for that, because when management does something shady, they write, they call; they are very vocal in their support for me. That means so much. In radio, you have to be competitive…or what are you doing? But I think you can have a healthy competitive spirit, and not be mean-spirited or nasty. I think I’ve proven that you can have a successful and entertaining radio program that is positive and uplifting. I don’t get down like the so-called “shock-jocks,” that will never be my thing or my style. It isn’t necessary, as many women I’m sure understand.
Of course I feel fear. I feel fearful every day. I’m the biggest wuss! I just keep on going. I think of my dad saying, “C’mon, don’t let ‘em getcha.” That brings me to earth and sanity. My parents have been through so much. My mom just turned 81. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 80 and she went public with her experience. Her attitude is wonderful. Instead of “poor me, why me, God?” she’ll say, “Lord, just guide me.” She stood by my dad and I can’t even put into words the admiration that I have for them. My dad was the first African American high school principal in San Francisco. He always had a big personality and I take after him that way. I’m definitely a daddy’s girl. He passed away four years ago, but I think of him every day. I want to make him proud. He’s my greatest inspiration and role model. Thinking of my parents and the experiences they endured gives me great strength. My dad and I are the same person. Same astrological sign, same sense of humor, same face!! Everything I’m doing now in my career is everything that he and I enjoyed together…music, comedy, entertainment and sports. I definitely think of myself not as a broadcast personality, but as a performer, something my husband and my immediate family will attest to!
I found my voice at Mills College in Oakland. Kind of ironic, I suppose. Or not? Mills is a women’s college and is all about women finding their voices. Up until then, I struggled with my voice and my sense of self. My school years were difficult as they were during the height of integration and the civil rights movement. I had a really hard time finding my place, and struggled to be accepted by both black and white students. My first day of high school in 1972, students threw rocks at the bus. It was like Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950s! But again, I would think of my parents and find my strength; I CAN do this and I MUST do this. I entered Mills College in 1976 and that experience forever changed me. It forever changed me. It was that experience that helped me find my voice and confidence. I met wonderful women; African American women with the same experience as my own. It helped me find my voice as a feminist and community activist. My parents’ greatest lesson was: “The biggest deterrent to racism and sexism is education. Get your education and be the best Renel you can be. And make a difference in the community and the world.” Last September, I delivered the convocation address at Mills. That was AMAZING. Unbelievable. I had come full circle and that was a profound moment for me.
As we get older, we start to just get it. I have a posse of five best friends. We’ve been tight for 14 years. Every December we have a blowout slumber party at my house. We met at our neighborhood Jazzercise class and we all just clicked. And all these years later we realize we were all meant to be together as sister-friends. We’ve been through divorces, cancer, raising children, aging parents, career struggles… you name it. There’s nothing better than best girlfriends to pull you though the ups and downs of being a woman in this world!
My husband was a student at UC Berkeley when I was at Mills. That’s when we met, but we didn’t get together until 13 years later. He saw me performing in a talent show on campus and claims that he knew one day I’d be a performer. It takes a special kinda brotha to be married to me and all that comes with the “Renel Experience”! I think it helps that he’s the oldest of six siblings, four of whom are sisters! And while his dad was in the Air Force, he had to step up and help his mom raise the family. He and his mom have a great relationship, so Tommie is pretty good with women!
My favorite thing to do is just to sit with a glass of wine in the tub. I usually take a vacation during the All Star break, but hello! Not this year! We’ll probably go this fall. I love tropical weather, so I like to go to Mexico or the Caribbean. I can sit there for hours. My husband will visit with me, but then he’s off to do something again. I guess I love sitting still because I don’t get to do that very much in my daily life. I usually get up at 4:00AM to start getting ready for my morning show, which airs until 10:00AM. Then, I’ll go to they gym or take a nap. Or prepare for the next day’s show. I have to be at the ballpark by 4:00PM for pre-game interviews. Then, after the game, I’ll go home and do some more preparation for the next morning’s show. I usually sleep about five hours. People have called that amazing, but it’s not amazing. Single moms are amazing! Moms in general are amazing! There are women who are juggling way more than I am an under great adversity. That’s what I call amazing.
I wouldn’t turn back the clock ever. Not on your LIFE. Life is good. Life is good. It’s quite the journey, is it not? When I think of the woman I was in my 20s and even 30s I refer to myself as “her,” because she was totally a different person…but she got me to the woman I now am…preparing to turn 50 next year, welcoming it, and daring to and continuing to be FABULOUS!
Renel’s voice is widely recognized in San Francisco Bay Area. She has been the host of popular radio programs and the public-address announcer for the San Francisco Giants. Renel marks the first time in history that a woman announced either a World Series game or an All Star game. These are among many firsts for Renel, whose infectious enthusiasm and positive example have been an inspiration to people everywhere.