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Dodgers Fire Shohei Ohtani's Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara Amid Allegations of 'Massive Theft'

Ippei Mizuhara, who has worked as Ohtani's interpreter throughout his MLB career, is reported to have racked up $4.5 million in gambling debts.



Ippei Mizuhara
Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara and Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani are pictured in the dugout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul during MLB's season-opening game on March 20, 2024. (KYODO)

SEOUL ― The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani's longtime interpreter and right-hand man Ippei Mizuhara on Wednesday, March 20 amid allegations of "massive theft."

According to ESPN, the Dodgers fired Mizuhara after questions surrounding at least $4.5 million USD (around ¥677 million JPY) in wire transfers sent from Ohtani's bank account to a bookmaking operation set off a series of events.

The report says Mizuhara incurred the gambling debts to a Southern California bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation. 

Initially a spokesman for Ohtani said the Japanese superstar had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara's gambling debts. 

The spokesman made Mizuhara available for an interview with ESPN on Tuesday night during which the interpreter laid out his account of the situation.

However, as the story was about to be published Wednesday, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara's account and said Ohtani's lawyers would issue a statement.

Ippei Mizuhara
Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara sits next to Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani during a news conference on March 16 in Seoul. (KYODO)

Ippei Mizuhara Reportedly Has a Gambling Addiction

In the statement, Ohtani's lawyers said their client had been the victim of a "massive theft" and that they were turning the matter over to the authorities.


When asked by ESPN on Wednesday if he had been accused of theft, Mizuhara declined to comment.

Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani does not gamble and that the funds covered his losses. 

According to ESPN, Ohtani's name was on two $500,000 payments (¥75 million each) sent in September and October 2023.

Regardless of the ongoing investigation, it's a massive blow to Ohtani and the Dodgers organization, both of whom pride themselves on a squeaky clean image.

Ohtani in December signed a record $700 million, 10-year (around ¥100 billion) contract with the National League team. 

Mizuhara Addresses His Gambling Problems

During the interview with ESPN, Mizuhara, who is 39, said he asked Ohtani to pay off his gambling debts, which multiple sources said had grown to at least $4.5 million (¥677 million).

"Obviously, he (Ohtani) wasn't happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again," Mizuhara said. "He decided to pay it off for me."


Mizuhara went on to say: "I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting [and] I want people to know I did not know this was illegal."

He then said, "I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting again."

But a day later, Mizuhara recanted, saying Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and that Ohtani had not transferred the money but that he had "stolen" it. 

Mizuhara said his bets were made on the NBA, the NFL and college football and that he never bet on baseball. 

MLB players are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball but not with illegal bookmakers or offshore websites.

In addition to being Ohtani's longtime interpreter, Mizuhara was seen as a close personal friend of the Japanese player.

Roberts Says He Can't Comment on Mizuhara

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are set to play the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of their season-opening Seoul Series on Thursday night.


Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was tightlipped about the matter ahead of Thursday's game, saying he and the team would just focus on baseball.

"Anything with that, I can't comment on it," Roberts said at a packed press conference at Gocheok Sky Dome when asked about Mizuhara. 

"Shohei is ready to go for tonight's game," Roberts said. "He's preparing at a hitter's meeting right now and will be ready for the game."

Roberts said there was no consideration given to taking Ohtani out of the game.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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