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On the field, Fernando Perez is a switch-hitting outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. Off the field, he's a bookworm with a degree in American studies with an emphasis on creative writing from Columbia University.

Perez, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, grew up in New Jersey. With the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading coming up this weekend in St. Pete, we chatted with Perez by cell phone during the Rays' series in Boston last week to talk to him about what he's reading.

What is on your nightstand?

Right now, because of the playoffs, I'm reading slowly, but I'm reading Ian Stewart's Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry. Once the season ends, I'm going to take a book back from my mom and read it. That one is Tom Miller's Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba. (Miller is one of the authors featured at the Festival.)

Are you staying away from heavy plots and reading nonemotional books during playoffs?

Actually, what helps me a great deal right now is poetry, like Robert Creeley and John Ashbery.

Did you have a favorite baseball story as a kid?

Finding Buck McHenry (by Alfred Slote), and Matt Christopher's Miracle at the Plate was also a great one.

Since you're into creative writing, do you think you'll write a novel based on this season?

If I did write a novel on baseball, I'd write a book on the minors. That's where the biggest characters are, and the more interesting story.

Times Festival of Reading

Dennis Lehane, Susan Orlean, Robert Olen Butler, Alexandra Kerry, Sandra Tsing Loh, Tom Miller, Ridley Pearson and many more authors will appear at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S. Get a complete schedule and more details at