Gambling debts, lies end work, friendship between Ohtani and translator as both are investigated

The Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, sit side by side at a news conference.
Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers after embroiling himself and superstar Shohei Ohtani in a gambling controversy that elicited an inquiry from Major League Baseball on Friday.
(Lee Jin-man / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Sunday, March 24. I’m your host, Andrew J. Campa. Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

    A longtime friendship dissolves over lies, potential ‘theft’

    It was just past 6 a.m. West Coast time — or 10 in the evening on Wednesday in Seoul — when television cameras captured two longtime friends enjoying each other’s company in the visiting dugout of Gocheok Sky Dome.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers were an out away from wrapping up a season-opening 5-2 victory over the rival San Diego Padres in an international series roughly 6,000 miles away from Chavez Ravine.


    In the bottom of the ninth, cameras captured a chummy conversation between Dodgers’ international sensation Shohei Ohtani and his longtime friend and interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

    The duo had known each other for years. Mizuhara translated for Ohtani in negotiations with six major league baseball teams before the two-way phenom bucked the Dodgers to sign with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018.

    The interpreter hails from Diamond Bar High School and was also relatively unknown outside baseball circles with his first mention in The Times on March 3, 2018, briefly noting his “Beatles-like mop top.”

    Within hours of their jovial ninth-inning chat, however, the relationship between the two men permanently changed.

    Mizuhara was abruptly fired by the Dodgers on Wednesday after entangling himself and Ohtani in a gambling controversy that has since elicited an inquiry from Major League Baseball.

    Lost in translation


    Ohtani has not been accused of a crime.

    However, his name has already been compared with those of baseball gambling infamy, such as Pete Rose, who was accused of gambling as a player and a manager, and the 1919 Chicago White Sox, better known as the “Black Sox,” who deliberately tossed away the World Series that year.

    The controversy, in essence, was revealed when The Times broke the news that Ohtani representatives accused Mizuhara of a “massive theft” of the ballplayer’s funds tied to gambling with an allegedly illegal bookmaker.

    Ohtani’s name had surfaced in a federal investigation of Mathew Bowyer of San Juan Capistrano. Bowyer’s attorney insists his client has not been charged with a crime.

    ESPN reported that the money involved totaled at least $4.5 million.

    An Ohtani spokesperson told ESPN on Tuesday evening that the ballplayer knowingly covered gambling debts incurred by Mizuhara. ESPN reported that Mizuhara informed the Dodgers after their win that a story would be out soon detailing the situation. He didn’t, however, mention anything about a theft.

    What did he know and when did he know it


    By the next morning, however, stories changed.

    Ohtani’s spokesperson said previous statements made on the ballplayer’s behalf were not accurate.

    Mizuhara also acknowledged that he lied and had never informed Ohtani of his debts and that his friend has never transferred money to his bookie or any of his associates.

    The Dodgers replaced Mizuhara with Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performance operations who once served as an interpreter for former pitcher Kenta Maeda.

    As for what’s next, The Times has you covered with articles, videos and daily updates on this evolving story. Stay tuned.

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    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team


    Andrew J. Campa, reporter
    Carlos Lozano, news editor

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