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The Layners’ love of sports runs deep

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Amanda and Taylor Layner

Taylor Layner knew what he wanted in a relationship. The former Osceola baseball standout preferred someone who worked hard and was passionate about helping others. 

One more thing. She had to be a sports fanatic.

He found that in Amanda Byers. 

The two became friends at South Florida State College in 2012. He was a pitcher for the Panthers. She was an outfielder on the softball team. 

They reconnected about two years later at a Florida State-Miami football game. A relationship developed, albeit long distance. Layner transferred to Webber International. Byers went on to Florida Gulf Coast. 

“I found the perfect match,” he said. 

Once their college careers were over, the couple got engaged and moved to the bay area. Both wanted to become high school coaches in their sports. 

Last year, Layner was hired to take over Largo’s struggling baseball program. 

Soon after, the softball position at the school opened up. Layner encouraged his fiancee to apply. She got the Packers job this season. 

With their professional paths set at the same school, the two made plans to start a family. Byers found out she was pregnant in September of 2019. They were married two months later. 

The Layners' wedding

There was no lavish courtship or wedding. 

After all, the diamonds that mattered most to them were on the field, not on any finger. In fact, Taylor proposed at Largo’s baseball stadium.

Their devotion to both sports goes back to when they were in high school. Taylor, a stellar pitcher, was the Pinellas County player of the year in 2011. He recently had his jersey retired at Osceola. Amanda hit .702 her senior season at Miami Dr. Krop, a statistic Taylor did not know until looking it up two weeks ago.

The teams they now coach have become just as much a part of their family. The Layners work tirelessly on fundamentals. They put together travel teams. They stress academics. 

Given the time commitments imposed by classwork and coaching duties, the couple had little time together since school started in the fall. They knew the workload would increase with a child on the way. No matter. 

“I was out there on the field until the doctor told me I couldn’t anymore,” Amanda said.

The players took notice of their dedication. 

“I think it’s a great match up,” Largo junior Zach Wagoner pitcher said of the Layners. “They both take the game seriously and they always put the players first. 

“There have been times during his wife’s pregnancy where the players questioned why (Taylor) was still at practice instead of with his wife. Both of the teams trust them and take their advice to help them grow not only on the field but off of it as well. They’re the best coaching duo you could get.”

Their son’s due date was in late March, the same time the Layners were supposed to be wrapping up their regular seasons. They knew there would be some major juggling with their schedules. Amanda would not be there for the stretch run of her debut season as coach. She would have to rely on her assistants, and her husband, if the season continued. Their parents were willing to babysit whenever needed. 

They made it work. Everything was coming together. The softball team won two games, equaling the program’s total from the previous three seasons combined. In two seasons with the baseball team, Taylor has compiled a combined 15 victories despite dealing with injuries to key players. The win total was more than the two seasons prior to Taylor’s arrival. And the 10 victories Largo recorded in 2019 marked just the second time the program reached double-digit wins in a season in the past decade.

“Largo was known more as a football school,” Taylor said. “We were starting to put the softball and baseball programs somewhere on the map.”

Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Spring sports were initially postponed before being canceled. 

The shutdown was beneficial. It allowed the Layners more time to prepare for Taylor Jr., who  was born March 25.

The Layners and their baby.

“It’s sad for the season to end the way it did , especially for the seniors on both teams,” Taylor said. “Everything happened so quickly. We had so much going on in our lives. This gave us time to really be together. That’s the one positive. It’s a crazy time, something we’ll always remember. When the history books are written 10-15 years from now, we’ll be able to tell our son he entered the world in the middle of all of this.”

The Layners knew what they wanted in a son. Someone who was strong and smart. 

And a sports fanatic. 

The training has already started. Taylor tries to get his son to use his left hand as much as possible, in hopes of developing a left-handed pitcher. The parents are even figuring out potential positions their son could play based on his estimated growth charts.

Taylor Layner Jr.

“Maybe a left-hander or right-hander,” Amanda said. “Maybe a pitcher or middle infielder. We’re athletes. We’re competitive. We want what’s best for our son. But we’ll support him no matter what he decides to do.”

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Baseball

Monday sports schedule

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What to watch

Baseball

Keswick Christian (14-3) at Seffner Christian (14-4), 4:30

All three of Keswick Christian’s losses have come by a run against public schools in higher classifications. Seffner Christian has not lost to a Hillsborough or Pinellas County school this season. 

Softball

Canterbury (15-9) at East Lake (15-6), 7

The Crusaders had won six straight to vault to the top of the Class 2A state rankings. The Eagles, ranked 10th in 6A, have averaged 16 runs in each of their last two wins.  

The schedules

Baseball

Gulf Coast HEAT at Foundation Christian, 4

Pinellas Park at St. Petersburg, 4

Keswick Christian at Seffner Christian, 4:30

Foundation Academy at Hernando Christian, 4:30

Riverview at Plant, 7

Seminole at East Lake, 7

Spoto at Brandon, 7

Zephyrhills at Pasco, 7

Steinbrenner at Jefferson, 7

Nature Coast at Bishop McLaughlin, 7

Seven Rivers Christian at Weeki Wachee, 7

Northeast at Sickles, 7

Hollins at Osceola, 7

Blake at Jesuit, 7

Tarpon Springs at Fivay, 7

Softball

Shorecrest at Cambridge, 3:30

Lakeland Santa fe at Foundation Christian, 4

Seven Rivers Christian at Seffner Christian, 4:30

Academy at the Lakes at Hernando Christian, 4:30

Canterbury at East Lake, 6

Clearwater Central Catholic at Academy of the Holy Names, 6

Largo at Tarpon Springs, 7

Strawberry Crest at Wesley Chapel, 7

Riverview at Plant, 7

Steinbrenner at Jefferson, 7

Spoto at Brandon, 7

Central at Citrus, 7

Tampa Catholic at Countryside, 7

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Baseball

Saturday sports schedule

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What to watch

Berkeley Prep (18-3) at Jesuit (20-1), 1

Both teams are ranked among the top seven in the state in their respective classifications by MaxPreps (the Buccaneers are No. 7 in 3A and the Tigers are No. 1 in 5A). 

The schedules

Baseball

Shorecrest at Canterbury, 10

Jefferson at Newsome, 10

Steinbrenner at Durant, 10

Strawberry Crest at Hillsborough, 11

Clearwater at IMG Royal, 12

Freedom at King, 1

Lennard at Leto, 1

Mitchell at IMG Gray, 1

Berkeley Prep at Jesuit, 1

Softball

Naples Longshore Tournament

Calvary Christian vs. Immokalee, 10:30

Calvary Christian vs. Naples Barron Collier, 12:30

Doral Academy vs. Sickles, 12:30

Other games

Middleton at Durant, 10

Spoto at Tampa Bay Tech, 10

Wesley Chapel at Academy of the Holy Names, 12

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Baseball

Friday sports schedule

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What to watch

Baseball

Calvary Christian (17-3) at Jesuit (19-1), 7

One of the top matchups of the season. Both teams are ranked among the top four in their respective classification (the Warriors are No. 4 in 3A and the Tigers are No. 1 in 5A) and the top 20 overall in the state by MaxPreps.  

Mitchell (16-5) at Osceola (16-4), 7

Both teams are ranked among the top 10 in the state in their respective classification by MaxPreps (the Mustangs are No. 10 in 6A and the Warriors No. 8 in 5A).

The schedules

Baseball

Lakeland Victory Christian at Zephyrhills Christian, 4

Bayshore Christian at Foundation Christian, 4

East Lake at Palm Harbor University, 4

Hollins at St. Petersburg, 4

Tampa Prep at Indian Rocks Christian, 6

Berkeley Prep at Tampa Catholic, 6:30

Central at Citrus, 7

IMG White at Wiregrass Ranch, 7

Largo at Hudson, 7

Northeast at Gibbs, 7

Wesley Chapel at Fivay, 7

Bloomingdale at Plant, 7

Land O’ Lakes at Sunlake, 7

Bishop McLaughlin at Inspiration Academy, 7

Lakewood at Gulf, 7

Hernando Christian at Anclote, 7

Chamberlain at Lennard, 7

Calvary Christian at Jesuit, 7

Mitchell at Osceola, 7

Weeki Wachee at Springstead, 7

Seminole at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7

Softball

Naples Longshore Tournament

Naples Lely vs. Sickles, 3:30

Calvary Christian vs. North Fort Myers, 3:30

Other games

Grace Christian at Bishop McLaughlin, 4

Canterbury at Palm Harbor University, 4

Foundation at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, 4:30

Clearwater Central Catholic at Hollins, 6

Academy at the Lakes at Academy of the Holy Names, 6

Sunlake at Berkeley Prep, 6

Indian Rocks Christian at Tampa Catholic, 6

Anclote at Zephyrhills, 7

Strawberry Crest at Middleton, 7

Hernando at Lecanto, 7

Springstead at Central, 7

Plant City at Lakeland George Jenkins, 7

Bloomingdale at Plant, 7

Chamberlain at Lennard, 7

Gibbs at Osceola, 7

Dunedin at Northeast, 7

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