Today's qualifer featured participants from the American League West, with the winner going on to participate on July 4th for the title of MLB/Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Champion.
Michael Young of the Texas Rangers, Coco Crisp of the Oakland Athletics, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Jordan Walden of the California Angels all lined up at the table with plates of twenty hot dogs and buns in front of them. Coco looked confident, with a big wide grin on his face. Ichiro looked focused. Michael Young was overheard muttering under his breath that he wanted a trade and Jordan Walden showed up with a pink Hello Kitty backpack filled with candy bars.
The contestants were told to start eating and Coco got out to the early lead, downing three dogs in the first minute. By the three minute mark, he was eight dogs in and was running away. Ichiro was in second place and reached the five dog mark at 3 minutes and twenty seconds, finishing a dog every forty seconds. Walden wasn't far behind with four and Young was in dead last - after finishing the first two, Michael looked up and saw how far ahead Coco was and he seemed to just give up.
Coco continued his torrid pace, and reached the thirteen dog mark at the halfway point. He was well ahead of Ichiro who was working on his eighth. Walden was starting to slow. Michael Young had clearly lost all interest and was requesting a meeting with his agent.
Coco had built a large lead going into the ninth minute that seemed insurmountable. He had finished nineteen dogs. Ichiro had been keeping his dog-every-forty-seconds pace and had consumed thirteen. Walden had hit the wall and was stuck on nine.
The tide turned a few moments later. Coco stole a glance at the board and saw how far ahead he was. He gave a big grin - half-eaten dog in his mouth and all and appeared to savor in his victory. His pause proved to be his fatal mistake. His grin vanished as he suddenly turned gray and he doubled over. He grabbed the bucket and expelled the contents of his stomach. Ichiro kept his head lowered and continued eating, finishing his fifteenth dog as time expired.
Afterward, Ichiro winked at Coco and said, "Anata wa kamu kota ga dekiru yori mo oku o kami kiru shinaide kudasai." "Don't bite off more than you can chew."
Here are the final, official results from Qualifer #1
First Place - Ichiro Suzuki - 15 Hot Dogs
Second Place - Jordan Walden - 9 Hot Dogs
Third Place - Michael Young - 2 Hot Dogs
Fourth Place - Coco Crisp - 0 Hot Dogs
Congratulations, Ichiro. See you at the finals on the Fourth.