‘This is all my fault’: Friend and interpreter for star baseball player sacked after ‘massive theft’ claim

US News

The Los Angeles Dodgers have fired the longtime interpreter and friend of superstar Shohei Ohtani following allegations of “massive theft”.

Ippei Mizuhara, who has been alongside Japanese baseball sensation Ohtani since his 2018 MLB debut, is accused of using funds from the player’s bank account to pay off gambling debts.

Los Angeles Dodger Shohei Ohtani (L) at a news conference with his interpreter  and friend Ippei Mizuhara in December 2023. Pic: Kyodo via AP
Image:
Ohtani (L) at his first Los Angeles Dodgers news conference with his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in December 2023. Pic: Kyodo via AP

Ohtani’s lawyers told the Los Angeles Times that Mr Mizuhara placed bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker, who is reportedly under federal investigation.

ESPN reported at least $4.5m (£3.5m) had been transferred from Ohtani’s account to a Southern California gambling operation.

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Mr Mizuhara, who gave his account in an interview with the US sport network on Tuesday night, lost his job after reporters started asking questions about the wire transfers.

“Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I’ve done,” he told ESPN. “I’m ready to face all the consequences.”

He said his bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football – but never baseball.

Initially he said Ohtani had agreed to cover his gambling debts. A day later, he said the player had no knowledge of the gambling debts and had not transferred any money to bookmakers, ESPN reported.

A spokesman for Ohtani said his lawyers would issue 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,” law firm Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

When asked by ESPN after the statement was issued if he had been accused of theft, Mr Mizuhara said he was told he could not comment.

Shohei Ohtani with his interpreter and friend Ippei Mizuhara. Pic: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports via Reuters
Image:
Ohtani and Mr Mizuhara have known each other for years. Pic: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports via Reuters

The Dodgers confirmed to Reuters and the Associated Press in a statement that Mr Mizuhara had been fired.

They said they were “aware of media reports and are gathering information”.

Sports betting is legal in up to 40 US states, but is still outlawed in California.

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from gambling – even legally – on baseball and also ban betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Shohei Ohtani.
Pic: AP
Image:
Ohtani is a pitcher and designated hitter. Pic: AP

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Ohtani signed a record-breaking $700m (£557m) deal with the LA Dodgers in December.

The 29-year-old pitcher and designated hitter agreed the historic 10-year contract with the California team after six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

The team is in Seoul, South Korea, this week as Ohtani makes his Dodgers debut.

He had two hits and an RBI in the opening 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in MLB’s first regular season game in the South Korean capital.

Shohei Ohtani and his wife Mamiko Tanaka. Pic: AP
Image:
Ohtani and his wife Mamiko Tanaka. Pic: AP

Despite his global stardom, the player has remained largely media-shy.

On Thursday, however, he shared a photo of his wife on Instagram, ending weeks of speculation after revealing last month he was married.

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