ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathan Ivey's last trip to Tropicana Field wasn't nearly this good.
The fifth grader attended the Rays' ballpark for the first time earlier this season. A family friend from church took him following the death of Ivey's father.
It was there that the young Rays fan filled out the winning entry in the "Take Jonny [Gomes] to School" contest, sponsored by MetroPCS, a wireless communications provider. Gomes visited Nathan's class at Maniscalco Elementary School on May l2 and was on hand to sign autographs, answer questions and meet his newest fan.
But, unlike the two years that preceded it, this year's contest didn't stop there.
MetroPCS discovered that 10-year-old Nathan's mother, Diane, was recently widowed and raising eight children as a single mother. The company promptly stepped in to help, issuing Diane a complimentary phone with one year of service.
"One of the nice things about our relationship with the Rays has been the excitement of the players about getting involved," said Mike Riley, vice president of sales and distribution in the Central Florida region for MetroPCS.
Gomes took the involvement one step further. The right fielder collaborated with MetroPCS, issuing 12 tickets and a limo to the family for Sunday afternoon's game vs. the White Sox.
Upon arriving to Tropicana Field in style, life got even sweeter for Nathan and his family. Gomes came out pregame to deliver the news that Nathan would be throwing out the game's ceremonial first pitch.
"Hopefully this is a day he remembers the rest of his life," Gomes said.
The Rays' starting left fielder on Sunday, Gomes said that he was glad he could provide something to the Ivey family that had eluded him during his own childhood in California.
"Anything I can do to put a smile on [Nathan's] face," he said.
Diane Ivey -- who also sported an ear-to-ear grin -- said the experience has been one to remember for her family, and most importantly, for Nathan.
"It does [mean a lot]," she said. "He's the star of the day."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.