Friday, April 19, 2024

Who is Ippei Mizuhara? Shohei Ohtani’s fired interpreter accused of ‘massive theft’ in gambling scandal

Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s long-time interpreter, was fired Wednesday after allegedly being accused of a “massive theft” from the Dodgers superstar to pay an illegal bookmaker in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mizuhara, however, told ESPN that Ohtani had willingly paid off his debts to the reported tune of more than $4.5 million.

While the gambling scandal is sure to continue evolving, here are five things to know about Mizuhara.

1. In 2013, Mizuhara met Ohtani while serving as the interpreter for the English-speaking players on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. “I’ve known Shohei since he was 18, and when I first saw him, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s unreal,'” Mizuhara told Sports Illustrated in 2021.

2. When Ohtani moved to MLB and signed with the Angels in 2017, he brought Mizuhara along with him as his personal interpreter. “They’ve transcended friendship into brotherhood, truly. It sounds dumb, but it’s true,” then-Angels first baseman Jared Walsh told ESPN in 2023.

3. During the 2021-22 lockout, MLB employees were barred from communicating with players. Mizuhara quit the team so he could remain in contact with Ohtani, then was re-hired after owners lifted the lockout.

4. Mizuhara is more than just an interpreter: he served as Ohtani’s catcher during the 2021 Home Run Derby and picked up groceries for him when he was stuck at home recovering from injuries in 2019 and 2020.

5. When Ohtani left for the Dodgers in free agency this past offseason, Mizuhara went with him, but not before reaching out to the Angels fans. “Cannot thank you guys enough for all the support for the last six years. Really really gonna miss you guys, and I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he wrote on Instagram. “It has been a great pleasure being part of the Angels family.”

The original version of this story noted that Mizuhara worked for the Red Sox as a translator for Hideki Okajima, something that was previously reported and is listed on a bio from high school. The Red Sox, however, denied Mizuhara’s employment in a statement this week.

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