If Danny Pacheco could have dreamed of the graduation present of a lifetime, it might go something like this: to be counted among the players participating in next week's FIRS Junior Inline Hockey World Championship tournament in Duesseldorf, Germany.
But Pacheco, a recent graduate of Otay Ranch High School, isn't dreaming. He's poised to represent Team Mexico in the annual world-class inline hockey bash that gets under way Sunday.
The 12-team 19-under tournament runs through Friday, July 2.
"Being a student at Otay Ranch, who would have ever thought I'd be going to Germany some day," said Pacheco, who holds dual Mexican-U.S. citizenship.
The 2009-10 CIF/Metro Conference Mesa League Player of the Year caught the attention of Team Mexico coaches during a national 19-under tournament played in Puebla from May 22 to June 1. Pacheco, representing the Baja California team, finished as the tournament's high scorer with 17 goals in eight games.
The Baja squad finished 5-3 to place sixth out of 20 teams.
"There were a lot of kids who had already made the team but there were still two openings on the roster and the Mexican federation was using this tournament to maybe fill those two positions," Pacheco said.
The high scoring Mustang forward was one of those picks.
"I was really surprised how good the level of play was in Mexico," Pacheco said. "It's a level that would be at the level of one of the top teams in CIF hockey."
Pacheco said he has an advantage over most players on Team Mexico in that he is able to play the game at a high competitive level on this side of the border and is able to impart that knowledge to his new teammates. "It's all about making them better players," he said. "It's great for me to also be kind of a coach to them as well as a teammate.
"The first thing I noticed was that the players down there tend to skate with their heads down watching the puck rather than passing it to another teammate and then heading toward the goal to get a return pass to score," Pacheco continued. "They would carry the puck straight on goal and shoot. I was teaching them all the little things about hockey I learned over here."
Pacheco said hockey has become a key ingredient in his life on this side of the border. Besides playing inline hockey, he also plays ice hockey for the San Diego Gulls 18-under team.
The Mesa League MVP award remains something definitely "special," he said.
"To be selected the player of the year for your league - that's a great accomplishment," he said. "There were some good teams in our league like Eastlake and great players like Dante Patron and Justin White (both from Eastlake). For me to get the award, it's something I'll always remember."
For updates, visit the Web site at www.worldinlinehockey.org.
FIRS Junior Men's Inline Hockey World Championship
Dates: June 27 to July 2
Site: Duesseldorf, Germany
Participating nations: Germany, Team USA, Italy, France, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Spain, Mexico and Namibia.
Rewind: The Czech Republic defeated Canada in last year's gold medal game; the United States finished with the bronze medal.
Team USA: This year's American squad features seven Californians, including Casey Escarcega of Escondido. Other U.S. picks from the Golden State include Brian Gibb and Jacob Hickey (both from San Jose), Daniel Inouye (Campbell), Christopher Lowry (Huntington Beach), Brett Olinger (Costa Mesa) and Joshua Winters (Corona).