After fan’s death, Fresno Grizzlies cancel championship taco-eating contest

Chukchansi Park is the home of the Fresno Grizzlies.
(Getty Images)

The death of a man who choked while participating in an amateur taco-eating contest at a minor league baseball game in Fresno this week has prompted the team to cancel a championship eating contest at the stadium.

Dana Hutchings, 41, of Fresno was devouring tacos as part of the amateur contest at the Fresno Grizzlies game against the Memphis Redbirds at Chukchansi Park on Tuesday when he started to choke, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti said.

Mathew Boylan, who watched Tuesday’s contest, told the Fresno Bee he noticed Hutchings because he was eating much faster than the other two contestants. Hutchings appeared to be swallowing the tacos without chewing and collapsed about seven minutes into the contest, Boylan said.


Emergency medical technicians initiated the Heimlich maneuver and CPR before paramedics arrived. Hutchings was taken to Fresno Regional Medical Center, where he died, officials said.

The Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office released Hutchings’ cause of death Thursday, saying he choked. Botti said emergency room staff at the hospital tried to clear food from Hutchings’ airway.

The contest was being held on Taco Tuesday as a precursor to Saturday’s ninth annual Taco Truck Throwdown at the stadium. But team officials say it wasn’t a qualifier for the event’s World Taco Eating Championship, which draws competitive eaters from across the country and boasts cash prizes for winners.

During last year’s championship contest, professional eater Geoff Esper chowed down on 73 tacos in eight minutes and took home $2,000.

After Hutchings’ death, however, officials decided to cancel Saturday’s contest. The Taco Truck Throwdown, which features taco trucks and live music, will still be held.

In a statement Wednesday, Grizzlies President Derek Franks said the organization was devastated by the man’s death.


“The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings,” Franks said. “The safety and security of our fans is our highest priority. We will work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”