Were you a big baseball fan as a kid?
Oh, yeah. I grew up in the L.A. area, but I was a New York Mets fan, and my favorite player was Don Mattingly [of the New York Yankees], so go figure on that one. I just wasn’t too fond of the teams out west.

Do you get distracted by all the music they play during the games — you know, “We Will Rock You” and all?
Not at home, but Yankee Stadium and Boston are in a league of their own. It can really get crazy.

Speaking of music, what’s your theme song when you come up to bat?
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I listened to it a lot in high school. That song automatically gets me pumped up.

What does it mean to play for the United States in the World Baseball Classic?
I never played in the Olympics, so this is my first [chance] to represent my country. We’re going to do everything we can to win.


Here are two fine baseball novels that couldn’t be more different. Donald Hays’s The Dixie Association ($19, Louisiana State University Press) is a rich, rollicking comedy about a
minor-league team made up of a motley cross section of eccentrics and castoffs. Scott Lasser’s Battle Creek ($15, Harper Perennial) is a spare, tragic story of semipros working day jobs and playing — for love and escape, not money — on a team sponsored by a funeral home (just one hint of the book’s dark corners). Hays ranges into social critique, satire, and allegory, while Lasser deftly probes the forces that drive his characters to triumph or doom.
— C.T.