Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Sacked By Dodgers Over Alleged ‘Massive Theft’

Calista Alma
March 21, 2024
Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani, left, attends an introductory press conference with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on December 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Kyodo News/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers took swift action on Wednesday, terminating the employment of Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter and close associate, Ippei Mizuhara, amidst troubling allegations of involvement in illegal gambling and embezzlement from the Japanese baseball sensation.

Mizuhara, aged 39, faced dismissal following damning reports from reputable media outlets including the Los Angeles Times and ESPN, which implicated him in connections to an illicit bookmaking operation. This decision coincided with the Dodgers’ presence in Seoul, South Korea, where Ohtani was set to make his highly anticipated debut for the team. Notably, Mizuhara was observed in the Dodgers’ dugout during their victorious season opener.

Throughout the game, Mizuhara was frequently spotted conversing with Ohtani, who serves as the Dodgers’ designated hitter, with discussions revolving around his at-bats over a tablet computer.

Since joining the Angels in 2017, Shohei Ohtani had Ippei Mizuhara appointed as his personal interpreter. According to ESPN, Mizuhara revealed this week that he received an annual salary ranging from $300,000 to $500,000.

In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday night, Mizuhara claimed that Ohtani settled his gambling debts upon his request. However, following a statement from Ohtani’s legal team asserting that the player was a victim of theft, Mizuhara altered his statement on Wednesday, asserting that Ohtani was unaware of the gambling debts and had not transferred funds to bookmakers.

Mizuhara disclosed accumulating over $1 million in debt by the end of 2022, with his losses escalating thereafter.

The potential ramifications of this scandal could echo the infamy of the Pete Rose gambling controversy, which led to a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 after an investigation by MLB lawyer John Dowd uncovered Rose’s extensive betting activities during his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds.

Baseball’s stringent gambling policy prohibits players and team personnel from engaging in any form of wagering on baseball, whether legal or not, as well as betting on other sports through illegal or offshore bookmakers. Violating these rules can result in a one-year suspension from the sport for baseball betting and discretionary penalties for other forms of illegal sports betting, as determined by the commissioner.

Despite his reluctance to engage with the media, Shohei Ohtani’s global stardom has continued to rise. His recent marriage to Mamiko Tanaka surprised fans worldwide, underscoring his widespread appeal. Although sidelined from pitching this season due to elbow surgery, Ohtani made an impactful debut as a designated hitter, contributing two hits and an RBI in the season opener against the San Diego Padres in Seoul.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 27: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers prepares for a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ippei Mizuhara’s role goes beyond interpreting for Shohei Ohtani. Their bond began in 2013 and has strengthened over the years, with Mizuhara accompanying Ohtani through his baseball journey, including his recent move to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ohtani’s staggering contract and lucrative endorsements highlight his immense wealth, while his personal life, including his surprise marriage and adoption of a dog named Dekopin, has captivated fans.

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