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On the field he's 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. Fernando Perez, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, grew up in New Jersey. We caught up with Perez, 25, by phone, just before Game 5 against the Red Sox on Oct. 16.

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.

Are you staying away from heavy plots during the playoffs?

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

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.

I love talking about books, but the team is starting to stretch, so I better go.