She turned to look at our two sons. Jeff, aged eight, shoved John, aged seven. John feinted with his left and clipped Jeff's ankle with his toe. Jeff started for him with both fists doubled. I managed to get between them just in time.
"If I were you," my wife said, "I'd take them outdoors to let off some steam. They've been cooped up in this hotel room for days. It looks cold on the beach, but at least it's stopped raining. If you borrow a. bat and a ball from the locker room downstairs, and you keep them moving, it shouldn't be too bad."
It wasn't. For a while, anyway. I'm no Willie Mays but I can hold my own with a couple of boys aged seven and eight. Especially when I stay at bat and keep them out in the field. The trouble was that we were not the only family in that beach hotel that had been catapulted into a crisis by the accumulation of salt on the television aerials.
A few minutes after I started batting out fungoes to my sons on the beach, four more small boys came loping out of the hotel and asked if they might join us. I did not see how I could refuse. Especially since their desperate parents were obviously watching from the windows of their rooms in the hotel.
Another thing I didn't see, because it had never happened to me before, was that batting out fungoes to six small boys is not the same as batting out fungoes to two small boys.
In the latter case you hit the ball, both boys race for it and one snags it. When you've got six in the field, however, they are fairly widely spaced. Consequently, when you hit the ball, only the two—and at most three—boys who are reasonably close to it will try to get the ball. At all times, therefore, at least three boys—and usually four—are standing still, doing nothing.
This is not good. Especially on the beach in St. Petersburg on a raw, gray day in February.
Before long the boys who are standing still begin to clamor for action. There is only one way to provide it: by giving them turns at bat in rotation. There are several things wrong with this.
SMALL BOYS AND FUNGOES
First, except for those rare exceptions who grow up to bring joy to the hearts of men like Leo Durocher, small boys of seven and eight are not very good at batting out fungoes. On the few occasions when a small boy of seven or eight does manage to connect, certainly on the beach at St. Petersburg on a raw, gray day in February, the ball invariably dribbles into the surf. As a result, three-quarters of an hour after I came out on the beach with Jeff and John to help them let off some steam, I was ready to blow up. My shoes and socks were soaked, my slacks were wet to the knee, my back ached, and I was beginning to sniffle.