MINNEAPOLIS - It was only his second All-Star Game, with quite a few more to follow. But Derek Jeter's pregame experience that night at Fenway Park in 1999 set a bar not since reached in the Midsummer Classic.
"That's when they had all the great players come on the field and I got a tap on my shoulder,'' Jeter said Monday of a ceremony built around honoring Ted Williams. "It was Hank Aaron, and he said he was looking for me because he wanted to meet me. I was like, 'You want to meet me?' So that's something that stands out. That's one of the best moments I've had on a baseball field.''
Jeter was front and center as the top attraction Monday at All-Star Game media day, fitting because much of Tuesday night's game figures to be a tribute to his career.
"We are able to celebrate a player who is not only a champion but a guy that sets the bar that I think all players should aspire to,'' said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who has Jeter leading off in his stacked American League lineup. "The way he has handled himself with class, with performance. This will be a day that I think many baseball fans will remember, Derek's last All-Star Game.''
Players from both leagues saluted Jeter and expressed excitement about what will be in store Tuesday night for the 40-year-old shortstop, who will be starting his ninth All-Star Game and making his 14th appearance.
The man of the hour brushed off hypothetical questions the way he always does.
"Nope, I haven't because I don't know what's going on,'' said Jeter, batting .272 with a .324 on-base percentage in 83 games in his 20th season. "I'm coming here preparing to play a game. Anything that comes along with it, I don't know. It's all speculation . . . I don't know what [Tuesday night] will be like.''
Last year at Citi Field, longtime Jeter teammate Mariano Rivera was the story, stealing the show when Jim Leyland inserted him in the bottom of the eighth inning. Rivera took the mound to a raucous standing ovation that included both teams standing outside their dugouts. Rivera was named the game's MVP.
"I don't expect anything,'' Jeter said, not biting. "Mo's last All-Star Game was in New York, it's kind of a different scenario . . . I try not to map things out.''
Asked several times about his "emotions'' and if he feels a level of "sadness'' about this being his final All-Star Game, Jeter again deflected the question.
"I haven't even gotten there yet,'' he said, smiling. "Let me play the game first, because you have me getting sad. I'm just trying to enjoy it. So no, right now there's no sadness.''
Along the same lines, Jeter said he doesn't plan to soak in this Classic more than any of the others. That's been his approach since his first one in 1998, when he was "afraid'' of approaching Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr., whom he had long admired.
"I've always enjoyed them, that's the thing,'' Jeter said. "This is a game that I've always looked forward to. I've appreciated the times I've had here, so it's difficult to say I'll try to enjoy it more. I don't know how much more I can enjoy it.
"I've always appreciated it. I never just assumed that I'd come back. Every All-Star Game I came to, I treated it like it could be my last one, so in that sense, it doesn't make this one any different.''
Now Jeter is the guy everyone wants to talk to, or at least meet.
"I hope no one's scared to say anything,'' he said, laughing. "I try and be as personable as possible and approach as many people as I can.''