This Could Be MLB's Biggest Gambling Scandal Since 1989

Shohei Ohtani's interpreter has been fired over alleged gambling, theft
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2024 12:01 AM CDT
Shohei Ohtani's Interpreter Fired in Gambling Scandal
FILE - Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani, left, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara answer questions during a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Dec. 14, 2023, in Los Angeles. Mizuhara has been fired from the Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and theft.   (AP Photo/Ashley Landis,File)

Shohei Ohtani's interpreter and close friend has been fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and theft from the Japanese baseball star, the AP reports. Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, 39, was let go from the team Wednesday following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker. The team is in South Korea this week as Ohtani makes his Dodgers debut. "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," law firm Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement Wednesday. Sports gambling is illegal in California, even as 38 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of it.

Mizuhara is a familiar face to baseball fans as Ohtani's constant companion, interpreting for him with the media and at other appearances since Ohtani came to the US in 2017. He even served as Ohtani's catcher during the Home Run Derby at the 2021 All-Star Game. When Ohtani left the Los Angeles Angels to sign a $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in December, the club also hired Mizuhara. On Tuesday, Mizuhara told ESPN that his bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL, and college football. MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering—even legally—on baseball and also ban betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers. "I never bet on baseball," Mizuhara told ESPN. "That's 100%. I knew that rule ... We have a meeting about that in spring training."

ESPN said it spoke to Mizuhara on Tuesday night, at which point the interpreter said Ohtani had paid his gambling debts at Mizuhara's request. After the statement from Ohtani's attorneys saying the player was a victim of theft, ESPN says Mizuhara changed his story Wednesday and claimed Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambing debts and had not transferred any money to bookmakers. It would be the biggest gambling scandal for baseball since Pete Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an investigation for MLB by lawyer John Dowd found Rose placed numerous bets on the Cincinnati Reds to win from 1985-87 while playing for and managing the team.

(More Shohei Ohtani stories.)

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