Shohei Ohtani shocks fans expecting boilerplate statement in Ippei Mizuhara press conference

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Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

Shohei Ohtani is known for being a tight-lipped, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of ballplayer, the kind of person who would prefer to let his work on the field speak for him. From his signing with the Dodgers to his marriage to the name of his dog, Ohtani is intensely private, which has made the entire situation surrounding him and translator Ippei Mizuhara even more confusing.

Last Wednesday, following the Dodgers' first game of the season against the Padres in Seoul, Mizuhara was fired, with Ohtani's camp alleging "massive theft" in the wake of Mizuhara accruing a reported $4.5 million in sports betting debt with a California bookmaker who is currently under federal investigation. Mizuhara alleged that Ohtani had offered to help him pay off some of that debt, while Ohtani firmly denied doing so, just before the story went public.

In the wake of this story, first reported by Tisha Thompson of ESPN, there were questions as to whether or not Ohtani would personally speak on the matter. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic predicted that he would stay completely mum (subscription required), even in the wake of a federal investigation into Mizuhara and an MLB investigation into the situation involving both Mizuhara and Ohtani.

Yesterday, however, Ohtani vowed to break his silence by presenting a prepared statement to the press. That, and the fact that Ohtani and the Dodgers made it clear he not take questions from reporters, immediately raised a few yellow flags and hinted toward a milquetoast, down-the-middle statement that would leave us with more questions instead of less.

But Ohtani has surprised us before, and it seems like he'll continue to do so. Over about 12 minutes, he gave his account of the events that led to Mizuhara's firing. It can be summed up rather succinctly in a statement straight out of the horse's mouth: "Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

Shohei Ohtani reveals more than anyone expected in first press conference since Ippei Mizuhara's firing

Ohtani first insisted that he had never bet on baseball (or any other sport) through a bookmaker, and had never asked anyone to do so for him. He maintained his camp's line and said that he had no knowledge of Mizuhara's gambling habit or the enormity of his accrued debt, and that Mizuhara telling ESPN that Ohtani was involved in the repayment of his debt was a lie.

However, he also shared a timeline of events from his perspective. According to Ohtani, a media inquiry asking about his "potential involvement in this sports betting" reached a representative in his camp, but Mizuhara never relayed the inquiry to Ohtani. Instead, Mizuhara told both the media and members of Ohtani's camp that he had been covering for an unnamed friend, before later revealing that the friend was, in fact, Mizuhara himself. Mizuhara told members of Ohtani's camp and the Dodgers that the two of them had been communicating about the issue, when in reality Ohtani maintains he was being fully left in the dark.

Ohtani said that the first time he heard about Mizuhara's gambling was during the statement Mizuhara gave to the Dodgers clubhouse on Wednesday following the game against the Padres. He couldn't fully understand what Mizuhara was saying because no one was translating for him, but felt something was "amiss." The two spoke after the team meeting and Mizuhara came clean.

To wrap up his statement, Ohtani once again affirmed his innocence and shared, in a rare move, some emotionality and shock in regard to the situation. True to form, though, he said that he would be moving forward, focusing on the season, and participating fully in any investigation into the issue.

However, this situation is far from resolved, and no doubt Ohtani's statements will set off yet another wave of speculation as investigations unfold.