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LA Dodgers fire Ohtani interpreter for alleged theft

March 21, 2024

Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani's interpreter and close friend Ippei Mizuhara has been fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and "massive theft."

Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, and his translator Ippei Mizuhara, right
Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, right, is a constant companion for Shohei OhtaniImage: Darryl Webb/AP Photo/picture alliance

Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Los Angeles Dodgers has fired Shohei Ohtani's interpreter after the Japanese baseball star's representatives said he had been the victim of "a massive theft" reported to involve millions of dollars.

"The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated," a Dodgers spokesperson wrote in an email to the AFP news agency on Thursday from Seoul, South Korea, where team are currently playing.

Earlier, following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about Mizuhara's alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker, law firm Berk Brettler LLP had said in a statement: "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."

Ohtani, a two-time American League MVP and a rarity in baseball as both a strong pitcher and batter, is the sport's highest-paid player at present and has a huge following in Asia.

Mizuhara, 39, has been Ohtani's interpreter and constant companion ever since the Japanese star arrived in the US in 2017. The pair first met in Japan in 2013 where Mizuhara was translating for English-speaking players playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

He admitted to ESPN this week that been placing sports bets in contravention of MLB rules, incurring debts of over $1 million dollars which he asked Ohtani to pay off for him.

After Ohtani's attorneys said the player was a victim of theft, Mizuhara has reportedly changed his story to claim Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debtsand had not transferred any money to bookmakers.

Shohei Ohtani in action for Team Japan during the World Baseball Classic Championship game against Team USA in Miami, Florida in 2023.
Shohei Ohtani in action for Team Japan Image: Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Mizuhara: 'I never bet on baseball'

"I'm terrible [at gambling]," Mizuhara admitted, saying he never won any money. "I dug myself a hole and it kept on getting bigger, and it meant I had to bet bigger to get out of it and just kept on losing. It's like a snowball effect."

Mizuhara said he placed bets on European football, the NBA, the NFL and college football but that he "never bet on baseball. That's 100%. I knew that rule. We have a meeting about that in spring training."

MLB rules nevertheless also prohibit players and team employees from placing wagers on other sports with offshore bookmakers. The MLB gambling policy, posted in every locker room with trangressions punishable by lengthy bans.

The Mizuhara case is the biggest baseball gambling scandal since Pete Rose was found to have placed bets on the Cincinnati Reds while playing for and managing the team in the 1980s.

mf/msh (AP, AFP)