When Luis Gonzalez and his family were on the cover of Raising Arizona Kids in June 2006, the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder was just beginning to think about camps for his then-8-year-old triplets.
Fast forward to 2017: Gonzalez and his wife, Christine, have seen their triplets (now 18 and heading off to college) master the camp experience. “Gonzo” took a few moments to reflect on their summer-camp memories, as well as his own.
Now a senior adviser in the Diamondbacks front office, Gonzalez grew up in Tampa, Florida. He never attended overnight camp as a kid, but he had plenty of experience at the Boys & Girls Club day camp every summer.
“They were a little bit of everything,” he recalls. “I did it because there was a different craft or something to learn — believe it or not, like pottery. I learned how to swim at a Boys & Girls Club at an actual swim camp when I was a little kid, because we didn’t have a pool in our backyard. So for me, those were a lot of valuable lessons that I learned that I probably wouldn’t have had.”
His favorite camp memory, however, is about the friends he made.
“There were kids from different areas that you developed relationships with. It just seemed like every year when school was over, you’d get to go back to those camps, and you’d get to see them again. They lived in different parts of town, and you’d get to rekindle those friendships.”
When it comes to his own children, Gonzalez feels much the same: Their camp experiences have broadened their horizons. Megan, Alyssa and Jacob have enjoyed all different types of camps — from sports to theater.
“Megan is our social butterfly. She is more into all the church camps, she loves doing the overnight camps. They get on a bus and they go for about two or three days at a time. Megan doesn’t get homesick, and she also loves the fashion camps.”
Alyssa favors theater camps, such as Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, where she gets a chance to act and sing.
“She’s very quiet at home. She can be on her own; she’s more artistic,” Gonzalez says. “But when she’s around her theater friends, you see her come out into almost a different person. It’s a great experience to see her develop. My wife and I have seen her go as a student at the camp to now being one of the helpers and teachers.”
As a pro ballplayer, Gonzalez was a guest instructor at a baseball camp and took Jacob, who was 5, along with him. He was only supposed to stay for a day but ended up staying for the whole week, along with Jacob.
“I wanted my son to experience it, too. I loved it; it gave me a chance to be around young kids. I think for counselors, it gives them a chance to see the different personalities of kids, too.”
His son — who really was too young for the camp at the time — loved it as well, and there’s a gleam in Gonzalez’s eyes when recalls how Jacob kept up with the older kids. Jacob has been attending baseball camps ever since and has friends from across the country that he met at camp.
“He has just as many friends who live outside the state of Arizona,” Gonzalez says. “Social media is a huge way for all these kids now to communicate with each other.”
Gonzalez recommends the summer-camp experience and urges parents to take advantage of the wide variety of opportunities camps offer. As a parent, he always inquired about counselor-to-camper ratios and wanted to know how kids would be cared for and how any emergency situations would be handled.
Ultimately, he sees camps as a way to foster independence.
“You try to prepare them for the next chapter in life, which is going to be leaving home, living on their own, having to do their laundry, having to communicate on their own. These are all skills you only hope that they’ve learned from you. But once the cord is cut, they have to make those life decisions on their own, and you hope that you brought them up the right way.”
D-backs Baseball Academy Youth Camps
A number of D-backs youth camps are offered across the Valley and at Salt River Fields for boys and girls ages 6-14. Camps include baseball/softball fundamentals training, a D-backs T-shirt and hat, and a free ticket to a 2017 home game with the opportunity to buy additional tickets at a discount. Five-day sessions are $175 and begin in June. 602-462-6340 or dbacks.com/academy.
RELATED: RAK’s comprehensive camps directory