Shane Hargest took it all in, because this vantage point was so much closer than anything he had experienced in his life at Camden Yards before Saturday. His family’s seats are generally in the 300 level of the park but, under the gray autumn sky, Shane and his family were on the field prior to the penultimate Orioles regular-season game.
The lifelong fans greeted manager Brandon Hyde, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and infielder Gunnar Henderson. Shane told them how much this season — which includes Baltimore’s first American League East championship since 2014 — has meant to him.
And for Shane, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, Camden Yards is a place he’s long felt comfortable. Surrounded by other Orioles fans, he’s no different than anyone else.
“I feel very blessed to be with my family,” Shane said while on the field, “because my mom and I and my brothers, we try to fit in with everybody, and I want to tell them, just because I have a disability, I still like baseball. I’m a normal guy.”
That’s what made a comment from a fan in August all the more hurtful.
“I feel like I’m home. That’s why, when that boy said what he said, he’s coming on my turf.”
Orioles fan Shane Hargest
In the concourse before an Orioles game, a high schooler among a group of friends made a comment that struck a jarring chord.
“We have a sense of humor. This isn’t something we haven’t dealt with before. We’ve dealt with this for 37 years,” said Derek Hargest, Shane’s older brother. “But, in a situation like that, the malice is self-evident.”
Shane heard and understood the remark. Derek yelled at the kids, then he and his mother cried. Derek, in what he described as a thread for his own catharsis, posted about the incident on Twitter, now called X. The detailing gained traction, and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer even reached out in support.
“I feel like I’m home,” Shane said of Camden Yards. “That’s why, when that boy said what he said, he’s coming on my turf.”
In the two months since then, the pain of that moment has led to a positive breakthrough. Shane has received closure, and he sat on the field pregame soaking in what he described as a “dream come true.” And the students at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland in Towson have received a valuable learning opportunity.
Christopher Post, the headmaster at Boys’ Latin, reached out to the Hargest family. He found the boy who made the comment and facilitated a meet-up for them. And Shane, who’s a motivational speaker for The League for People With Disabilities and The Arc Baltimore, will be part of a group that works with Boys’ Latin.
“The League is an amazing organization that provides so many services and programs for individuals with a variety of challenges and disabilities,” Post wrote in an email. “We are looking forward to our partnership with the League, through which our students can build relationships with participants, and learn with and from them.”
“Now they get some inclusion; they get to be around people who might be disabled and things they might not have been in contact with before,” Derek said. “It really made a good thing out of a bad situation.”
Still, the apology was difficult for Shane and the student. Shane said it was hard for the student to look him in the eye.
“I asked him why, and he said that he made a mistake, and he was with a bunch of fellows and stuff like that,” Shane said. “I was very firm with him. But, at the end, I made him feel better.”
Shane added: “I’m always firm with them so they understand, but at the end I’m like a big brother that brings them back up. That’s how society should be, but we’re not. We will tell people they’re bad because they did one thing, and I don’t want to be like that, because I’ve definitely in my life kind of messed up, and I don’t need somebody to bring it up all the time. So I try to be that better person, even when I don’t want to.”
But out of the dark came the light of Saturday, when Shane, Derek and the rest of their family enjoyed a moment on the field. Shane said it reminded him of being up close to his brothers’ football games when they all were younger.
Shane’s fandom runs deep. He weathered the rebuild. Camden Yards became a second home. And one incident hasn’t changed his love for this place or his excitement for what comes next.
“It means a lot to me, because I’ve been sitting in these seats for years,” Shane said. “I’ve just been hoping for a playoff team.”
Now he can watch one in the ballpark where he has long felt most comfortable.