New details in Shohei Ohtani-Ippei Mizuhara situation reveal deeper confusion

Dec 14, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Ippei Mizuhara, the translator for Los Angeles Dodgers
Dec 14, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Ippei Mizuhara, the translator for Los Angeles Dodgers / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's bombshell reporting has recently exposed what seems to be just the tip of an iceberg involving Shohei Ohtani, his (now former) translator Ippei Mizuhara, and nearly $5 million in gambling debt. The original story broke last week on Wednesday evening, after the Dodgers opened their season in Korea with a win against the Padres. It certainly cast a pall over the rest of the Seoul Series, but it's also threatening to change the course of Ohtani's — and thereby, the Dodgers' — entire season.

The situation is already incredibly complicated, but the gist of it goes something like this: Mizuhara has allegedly been involved in an illegal sports betting operation since 2021, has bet on a litany of sports (but not baseball, he says), and has lost $4.5 million. During an in-depth interview with ESPN, which Ohtani's camp offered him up to conduct, Mizuhara alleged that he asked Ohtani for help last year, and Ohtani then made two separate payments of $500,000 to the bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, who is currently under federal investigation.

Before a report could be published, Ohtani's camp discredited Mizuhara's account and said Ohtani was completely unaware of the situation, never helped Mizuhara, and had instead been the victim of "massive theft."

The Dodgers promptly fired Mizuhara, but more details have surfaced in the days since the initial report. Two in particular point to this situation going very deep. Per the 2019 Angels media guide, Mizuhara graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2007 and "served as an interpreter for Hideki Okajima during Yankees Spring Training in 2012" (subscription required) but there are reasons to believe that neither are true.

New details in Shohei Ohtani-Ippei Mizuhara situation reveal inconsistencies in translator's history

Representatives from UC Riverside said that there was no record of Mizuhara graduating or even attending the school, but did not respond to further questions regarding if Mizuhara could've attended or graduated under a different name.

The situation with Okajima is even more murky. The pitcher was released by the Yankees in February 2012, before spring training, which contradicts what Mizuhara's biography stated. It's possible that they could have worked together when Okajima was with the Red Sox, just prior to his short stint with the Yankees, but the Red Sox has also disavowed Mizuhara's employment with the team.

Ohtani is expected to break his silence on the situation with a press conference later today. Though notoriously tight-lipped, hopefully Ohtani will shed a bit more light on his side of this ever-more confusing ordeal.