Max Scherzer starts to speak about Mark McGwire, closes his eyes trying to find comfort, but the words won't come out. McGwire talks about Scherzer, but his voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes.

Scherzer, the Detroit Tigers right-hander who will start tonight’s All-Star Game for the American League, has never met McGwire. McGwire, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hitting coach, has never spoken to Scherzer.

Yet they have a unique relationship, bonding over an unforgettable summer, a handwritten note and a bat.

"I get emotional talking about it," McGwire tells USA TODAY Sports. "I never met Max, but I have these unbelievable feelings for him.

"When I finally get the opportunity to meet him and see him, I'm going to give him the biggest hug of his life."

The connection began during the summer of 1998, when McGwire marched toward Roger Maris' single-season home run record, captivating the country, including Max and Alex Scherzer of Chesterfield, Mo.

When McGwire hit his 62nd home run to pass Maris on Sept. 8, 1998, Scherzer, then 14, remembers missing the historic blast and never being so angry at his 11-year-old brother. On the morning of June 21, 2012, the day he received that telephone call from his father, Scherzer never felt so much love for Alex.

It was the day his brother was found dead, having committed suicide by strangulation, inside the basement of their parents' home.

Max Scherzer declines to speak publicly about the death. It's too soon. Too painful.