DOUBLE PLAY : 2 Friends Make it to the Big Leagues Together : Layana's Persistence Paid Off With Move Up to the Yankees

Times Staff Writer

Outfielder Billy Bean and pitcher Tim Layana were called up to the major leagues this year within weeks of each other. That's no surprise. Their careers have paralleled each other since they were CIF high school stars.

The pair entered Loyola Marymount in 1983, roomed together and were captains of the Lions team that went to the College World Series in 1986.

Bean graduated with many school and conference hitting records, while Layana virtually rewrote the pitching record book.

Both were chosen to the All-America team in 1986.

Though now in different leagues on opposite coasts, they remain best friends. In November when Bean marries Gina Guzzo, Layana will be in the wedding party.

The card sat in Tim Layana's wallet for two, maybe three years, untouched. Last spring, after a bad outing on the mound, Layana, a former Loyola High and Loyola Marymount University pitching star, pulled it out and read it.

"All the things it mentioned I relayed to pro baseball," said Layana, a former Lion All-American pitcher who has been in the New York Yankees' farm system since 1986. "I read it and said, 'OK, let's forget that bad experience and go on to the next day.' It's funny, but I've been pitching pretty good ever since."

One of the passages from the card he bought at a bookstore reads: "When care is pressing and you're down a bit, rest if you must, but don't you quit."

After three-plus years in the minors, Layana's disdain for the word quit paid off. On Aug. 2, he was promoted from Class AA Albany-Colonie of the Eastern League to the big-league Yankee roster.

"It's all the dreams come true, everything I ever imagined," said Layana in a telephone conversation from New York. "I wasn't sure what kind of response I would get from the big league players, but they all came and introduced themselves. Don Mattingly came up and started asking me about Loyola basketball, about their running game. It was just great."

(Layana's good fortune was short-lived, however. On Friday, he was sent back to Albany to make room on the roster for Goose Gossage. He could be called up again, however, when the Yankee roster is expanded in September.)

Layana's brief promotion nearly coincided with that of his former LMU teammate, roommate and good friend Billy Bean, who was elevated to the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster July 24 from Class AAA Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League.

Layana and Bean roomed together during Loyola's rise from an 11-41 mark their freshman year to a 50-15 record and NCAA College World Series berth their senior year.

Chris Smith, Loyola's current head baseball coach and an assistant during the Layana-Bean years, says it doesn't surprise him that the pair earned their way to the big leagues.

"They both have great ability. They play at such a high level all the time. Billy is a straight person, whereas Tim has some street toughness, but their dedication is the same. I think it comes from living with each other," said Smith.

Layana's dedication certainly helped his push to make the Yankee squad, but it also helped when his role changed from starter to reliever and he added a pitch or two to his repertoire.

He credits Yankee player development director George Bradley with helping him make the changes. "He put me in the bullpen. He said my arm was more suited for that type of work. I can come back and throw the ball in a couple of days after going two or three innings, then throw three or four innings, then get a couple days' rest and do it again," Layana said.

"He is very aggressive on the mound, and that's what you're looking for in a relief pitcher," Bradley said. "A relief pitcher needs strength and trickery, and Tim can do both. Everything indicated that he has done the job and can do the job. Obviously (relieving) got him to the big leagues."

Used mostly as a starting pitcher at Loyola--he holds the school records for starts in a season (19) and career (61)--Layana says he couldn't be happier with the adjustment to the bullpen at the pro level.

"Coming into games in relief, the adrenaline is going so fast, it's almost like a natural high. It's amazing. I really enjoy relieving," he said.

Layana has bounced between nearly all of the Yankees' farm teams since being taken by New York in the fourth round of the 1986 college draft. After spending 1986 and '87 between a rookie team in Florida and the Albany-Colonie squad, Layana, showing plenty of promise, was all set to suit up for the Yanks' Class AAA Columbus Clippers last year. But the team signed several veteran pitchers just before the season began, and Layana again found himself toiling in Albany. This time, things took a downhill plunge.

"1988 was a horrible year for me. Anything that could go wrong did. I could go out and pitch good and lose 1 to 0, and then the next night pitch horribly," he said. The experience was cause for some drastic action by Layana: he gave away his baseball cleats, gloves, and anything else associated with his down year. "I just wanted no part of that season," he said.

Last spring, however, was a new ballgame, and Layana appeared headed straight for Yankee Stadium on opening day after working out all spring with the major league squad. But there came another detour.

"They (Yankees) called me four days before camp ended and told me they signed (veteran pitchers) Tommy John and Ron Guidry," Layana said, thus leaving him to play with Columbus.

But there was a problem with the outlook on his future there, Layana says. The problem was that Clipper manager Bucky Dent didn't see it as brightly as Layana did.

"Three years in a row, I didn't get a chance to make Triple-A. I went up and told him, 'You didn't give me a chance to make your club,' and we had a little verbal altercation," said Layana, who for reasons undisclosed was instead shipped back to Albany-Colonie.

Counters Dent: "If you look at his (1988) numbers, what are you gonna do? He went 1-7 , with a 6 ERA. If that's not giving him a chance, I don't know what is."

But Layana says all he needed was time to straighten out his game.

"I felt he gave up on me and I didn't respect him for that. He said a couple of bad things. I didn't take them too much to heart, but I took them enough to where they motivated me. I wanted to prove him wrong," he said.

Appropriately, as it turned out, the 25-year-old was meanwhile taking a one-day-at-a-time approach to his stay in the big leagues. He doesn't know what locker will hold his uniform next season, but he's sure of what will be taped to it: the poem about not quitting. "I'll probably always keep it somewhere where I can read it," Layana said.

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