Dodgers’ Ohtani Embroiled In Gambling Scandal

By U Cast Studios
March 22, 2024

Dodgers’ Ohtani Embroiled In Gambling Scandal
Image Courtesy Of Public Domain

Interpreter fired after allegedly stealing millions from superstar to pay off debts.

This article was written by Martin Marks and originally published by The California Globe.

In the off-season, the Los Angeles Dodgers scored one of the biggest free agent pickups in recent memory. Shohei Ohtani left nearby rival Anaheim Angels at the end of the 2023 season only to be picked up by the Dodgers for an unprecedented uber-lucrative contract of $700 million over 10 years. This made Ohtani not only the highest paid player in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, but also the highest paid athlete in any sport in North America. With his acquisition, the Dodgers added to an already formidable and highly paid squad and were touted to be one of the best teams to ever be assembled with predicted MLB dominance for years to come.

What made Ohtani so valuable was not only his status as one of the best pitchers in the game, but also as one of the best hitters in the game. This is almost unheard of as essentially all pitchers never even touch a bat in professional baseball. As a starting pitcher, Ohtani took the mound every four to five games, but when he wasn’t pitching, he was an everyday designated hitter—and one of the best in the game. 

After beginning his professional career in Japan, Ohtani was acquired by the Angels and deservedly won the Rookie of The Year in his first MLB season in 2018. Many other awards would follow—most notably the league’s Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2021 and 2023.

Since arriving in the U.S., Ohtani made use of a personal interpreter both on the field and off in order to interact with teammates, coaches, and the media. The interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara was born in Japan, but grew up in Southern California graduating high school and then attending UC Riverside. He first connected with Ohtani in Japan functioning as an interpreter for English speaking players on Ohtani’s Japanese team, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. He followed Ohtani to the U.S. to serve as his interpreter as Ohtani began his stint with the Angels. With the Dodgers’ signing of Ohtani, Mizuhara became an employee of the L.A. team to continue his role as interpreter. Ultimately the relationship blossomed into a close friendship where the two were rarely seen apart.

Just recently, during a federal probe into illegal bookmaking, Ohtani’s name surfaced which caused his representatives and those of the Dodgers to scramble and begin their own investigation. Wednesday, attorneys for Ohtani alleged that Mizuhara had stolen millions from their client in order to pay off gambling debts to the subject of the federal illegal bookmaking investigation, Matthew Bowyer, himself a Southern California resident. Within hours the Dodgers fired Mizuhara.

Here, the story gets murky.

When first confronted on Tuesday, Mizuhara and then a spokesman from Ohtani’s camp reported that the superstar made wire transfers of large sums of money to pay off the interpreter’s mushrooming gambling debt to Bowyer. When asked why Ohtani did not just give the money to Mizuhara, the spokesman indicated that Ohtani did not trust his interpreter with the large sum and wanted to settle the debt directly. Subsequently, attorneys for Ohtani countered that account by claiming that Mizuhara’s initial story was made up and that instead Mizuhara simply stole the millions from Ohtani.

It is important to note that federal laws make it illegal to wire money for the purpose of illegal bookmaking. Whether that was the impetus for the story to change within hours is conjecture at this moment.

It is also important to note that MLB players are not forbidden to wager on sports by legal means, providing it is not on baseball games. Of course, California does not allow sports wagering by virtue of the overwhelming defeat of Propositions 26 and 27 in 2022. At this point, it is Mizuhara’s and Bowyer’s claim that any wagers placed were not on MLB games and that Ohtani had no interest in those bets. It is worthwhile to consider why an illegal bookmaker would extend millions of dollars in credit to an interpreter. Mizuhara had made an ample living working for the Dodgers, but was it worthy of the obviously sizeable credit extended to him by an alleged bookie?

So, what does this all mean for Major League Baseball, The Dodgers, and Shohei Ohtani himself?

Arguably, Ohtani is the face of Major League Baseball right now and a mammoth commodity for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Should this investigation reveal that Ohtani himself has culpability for illegal wire transfers or that he himself was involved in placing illegal wagers on any sport, his young career and lucrative contract could be in jeopardy. The loss for the Dodgers would no doubt be devastating as well.

For Major League Baseball, the problem is perhaps one of appearance. Keep in mind that Pete Rose, the Major League all-time hit leader and arguably one of the greatest hitters of all time, was banned from baseball for illegal sports gambling with allegations that he bet on baseball and perhaps for and against his own team. Rose, now 82, would have been a shoo-in for election to the MLB Hall of Fame but has been prevented from induction to the venerable group of players because of the lifetime ban. Go back more than 100 years to find another all-time great–Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball and also entry into the Hall of Fame by virtue of his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, another sports gambling imbroglio. 

As this story and investigation unfolds it will be interesting to see how the Feds deal with Ohtani. With stories changing in rather short order and realizing that they have a real mess on their hands, it will also be fascinating to see how Major League Baseball and the Dodgers attempt to protect their superstar. When the dust settles, don’t be surprised that the change of stories is attributed to something being lost in translation, as it were. 

The 2024 Major League Baseball season has begun, but the compelling story this year might just have little to do with balls, strikes, wins, and losses. You can bet on that.

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