Dodgers fire Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara amid ‘massive theft’ allegations – The Athletic

By The Athletic Staff1h ago

By Andy McCullough, Fabian Ardaya, Sam Blum and Britt Ghiroli

The Los Angeles Dodgers have fired Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, after Ohtani’s representatives accused Mizuhara of engaging in a “massive theft,” using the player’s money to place bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker under federal investigation.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” Berk Brettler LLP, the firm representing Ohtani, said in a statement.

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The accusation by Berk Brettler followed an inquiry from The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper learned Ohtani’s name surfaced in an investigation of an Orange County resident named Matthew Bowyer. Mizuhara, 39, placed bets with Bowyer, according to the newspaper.

Mizuhara did not respond to a request for comment. Ohtani is not currently facing discipline, according to an MLB official.

“The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information,” the club said in a statement. “The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time.”

Ohtani’s involvement initially was described as aiding Mizuhara, as a spokesman for Ohtani said the player transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debt. Mizuhara reportedly gave his account in a 90-minute interview with ESPN on Tuesday in which he said Ohtani paid off gambling debts totaling roughly $4.5 million and did not give the money to Mizuhara directly because he didn’t trust his interpreter to not “gamble it away.” Before Mizuhara’s interview published, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said Ohtani’s lawyers would issue a statement.

Mizuhara said on Wednesday that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activity, debts or attempts to pay them.

Ohtani made his Dodger debut Wednesday evening in Seoul, South Korea, against the San Diego Padres. He is in the first year of a 10-year, $700 million contract, with $680 million in deferrals. Mizuhara has worked with Ohtani since the player debuted with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018.

Ohtani and Mizuhara’s relationship, which dates back to Ohtani’s days with the Nippon Ham Fighters of NPB, is closer than most between players and interpreters. For much of the last seven years, they were rarely seen apart. They drove to the ballpark together, with Mizuhara essentially serving as Ohtani’s driver before the two-way star got his driver’s license in his early seasons with the Angels. Whenever Ohtani threw, Mizuhara would be close behind, with either a phone camera recording his mechanics or a pocket radar gun tracking data. Mizuhara told The Athletic last year he saw Ohtani more than his own wife, and that the pair even spent Christmas in Los Angeles working out together.

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During baseball’s lockout in 2022, when players and club staff weren’t able to interact, Mizuhara quit his job so he could continue to work alongside Ohtani.

In a lighthearted moment this spring at Dodgerfest, in front of a packed crowd at Dodger Stadium, former Angels and current Dodgers radio personality José Mota asked Ohtani to define their relationship. He immediately started laughing.

“We’re not friends,” he deadpanned through Mizuhara, “we’re business partners.”

Most major leaguers play catch with teammates or receive instruction from coaches. That was not the case with Ohtani. When the two-way superstar went out to throw plyo balls against the outfield wall, he did it with Mizuhara. When a new pitcher came into the game with Ohtani on deck, it was Mizuhara who walked out with the iPad to break down his new matchup.

Mizuhara became a fan favorite in Anaheim — so much so that when the public address announcer introduced players and staff last season before the home opener, Mizuhara received the second loudest ovation from the crowd, behind only Ohtani.

According to a league source, MLB hasn’t been contacted by prosecutors. The MLBPA declined comment, and Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, declined multiple requests for comment.

Mizuhara interpreted for Ohtani as recently as Wednesday night’s season-opening win against the Padres in Seoul, South Korea. Ahead of the flight, Ohtani, Mizuhara and their wives posed with Yoshinobu Yamamoto and his interpreter, Yoshihiro Sonoda, for a photo. Ohtani posted the photo to his Instagram. When reporters approached Wednesday to talk to Ohtani about the game, Mizuhara had ducked out into the hallway of the clubhouse, emerging only at the end of Ohtani’s scrum with reporters and interpreting three brief English questions about the game.

According to ESPN, Mizuhara addressed the Dodgers clubhouse to discuss the upcoming story about his gambling. The scene of people pouring out of the clubhouse before media was let in included Dodgers owner Mark Walter and CEO Stan Kasten.

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(Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

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