Who is Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter fired amid gambling accusations?

Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara talk to reporters.
Shohei Ohtani and his translator Ippei Mizuhara, right, address the media on Feb. 29 at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix.
(Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara were practically connected at the hip for 6½ years, the bond between the world’s most famous baseball player and his interpreter so tight that the Dodgers two-way star was rarely, if ever, seen in public without Mizuhara in tow. Me and my shadow, they were. Two peas in a pod.

Not anymore. Mizuhara, 39, was abruptly fired by the Dodgers on Wednesday after representatives of Ohtani accused the interpreter of “massive theft” of the player’s fundsreportedly $4.5 million — to place bets with an allegedly illegal Orange County bookmaker who is the target of a federal investigation.

Representatives of Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani accused his interpreter of engaging in a ‘massive theft’ of the ballplayer’s funds to place bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker.

March 23, 2024

Diane Bass, the attorney for the bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, said her client has “never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani,” who signed a 10-year, $700-million deal with the Dodgers in December after playing his first six seasons with the Angels.


But it will be nearly impossible for Ohtani, whose ability to compartmentalize his pitching and hitting duties and limit distractions fueled a historic run in which he won the 2021 and 2023 American League most valuable player awards and finished second in 2022, to separate himself from a scandal sparked by his interpreter.


So who is Ippei Mizuhara?

Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara stand together during an Angels game.
Shohei Ohtani talks with Ippei Mizuhara during an Angels game against the Athletics in 2021.
(Associated Press)

Mizuhara was born in the northern Japanese region of Hokkaido in 1984 and moved with his family to Southern California in 1991. He was a 2003 graduate of Diamond Bar High School, where he was a backup goalie on the school’s varsity soccer team as a senior but did not get much playing time.

“He always showed up for practice and worked hard,” Diamond Bar coach Kemp Wells told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune this week. “I remember that.”

Though he didn’t play baseball, Mizuhara fell in love with the game while watching Japanese sensation Hideo Nomo take the sport by storm with the Dodgers in 1995.

For the record:

12:07 p.m. March 23, 2024A previous version of this story stated Mizuhara worked as an interpreter for Boston Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima. In a statement released Friday, the Red Sox stated Mizuhara was never employed by the team.

“I was right in the middle of Nomo Fever,” Mizuhara told Sports Illustrated in 2021. “Ever since then, I just watched a lot of MLB.”



How did Mizuhara and Ohtani meet?

Shohei Ohtani talks with Ippei Mizuhara before an Angels game.
When Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels, he brought Ippei Mizuhara, right, as his personal interpreter.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Mizuhara traveled to Japan in 2013 to serve as an interpreter for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters’ English-speaking players, including reliever Chris Martin. Ohtani was an 18-year-old rookie with the Fighters that season.

“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. “That’s got to be the best part of the job, just getting to be in the house and watch him do his thing.”

When Ohtani signed with the Angels in December 2017, he brought Mizuhara with him as his personal interpreter.


What did Mizuhara’s job entail?

Shohei Ohtani watches a Lakers game with Ippei Mizuhara.
Shohei Ohtani, center, sits with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during a Lakers game in November 2019.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)


He was far more than an interpreter. Mizuhara and Ohtani drove to the stadium every day together, with Mizuhara serving as Ohtani’s chauffeur before Ohtani got his driver’s license. The two often worked out together.

During the pandemic in 2020, the pair played catch in the Angel Stadium parking lot. Mizuhara usually recorded Ohtani’s throwing sessions on his phone or tracked his data with a pocket radar gun.

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Mizuhara served as a liaison between Ohtani and the coaching staff, accompanying managers and pitching coaches on mound visits. When a new pitcher entered the game, it was usually Mizuhara who showed Ohtani iPad video of the opponent.

Early in his Angels tenure, Mizuhara encouraged Ohtani to download a video game on his phone so he could better connect with his teammates, which led to Ohtani and former Angels infielder David Fletcher developing a close bond.

“I’m with him 365 days of the year … longer than I’m with my wife,” Mizuhara told the Athletic in 2023. “So it’s going to be tough if you don’t get along on a personal level.”


How did Mizuhara’s popularity evolve?

Angels fans hold pictures of Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara.
Fans hold up pictures of Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during an Angels-Mariners game in September 2022 in Anaheim.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

During his first year or two in Anaheim, Mizuhara talked softly and didn’t carry a big schtick. He seemed shy, almost timid, as he mumbled his way through some interviews. Reporters begged him to speak into the microphone at times.

But Mizuhara seemed to gain confidence as he grew more comfortable with his role, and his profile grew as Ohtani’s career took off with his breakout 2021 season, when Ohtani first emerged as a two-way force.

Mizuhara was thrust into the spotlight at that summer’s All-Star Game when Ohtani tapped him to be his catcher for the home run derby. Mizuhara gained more acclaim when he temporarily quit his job during the 2021-2022 lockout, when MLB employees were barred from contacting players, so he could continue to work alongside Ohtani.

Mizuhara became such a fan favorite in Anaheim that when players and staff were introduced before the 2023 home opener, Mizuhara received the second-loudest ovation from the crowd, behind only Ohtani.


Mizuhara’s Instagram account now has 419,000 followers, and though he rarely posts on the social media platform, he did thank Angel fans after Ohtani signed with the Dodgers.

“Cannot thank you guys enough for all the support for the last six years,” Mizuhara wrote on Dec. 13. “Really, really gonna miss you guys, and I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart. It has been a great pleasure being part of the Angels family. Wishing you all the best.”