Shohei Ohtani Speaks About His Interpreter’s Gambling Debts

Shohei Ohtani Speaks About His Interpreter’s Gambling Debts

Shohei Ohtani Speaks About His Interpreter’s Gambling Debts

The great American pastime may yet again be caught up in another gambling scandal. Or maybe not. The season officially began last week with two games in South Korea between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres (MLB likes having early games abroad now), and all eyes were on the Dodgers’ new superstar, Shohei Ohtani.

For everyone who does’t follow baseball (you really should), Shohei Ohtani is the most famous Japanese baseball player since Ichiro Suzuki. Ohtani came to Major League Baseball in 2018 after signing a large contract with the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels as a two-way player. What’s a two-way player? Shohei Ohtani is both a pitcher and a hitter. And he is VERY good at both. However, the Angels have not been in contention for the playoffs for a decade now (their last pennant was in 2014), so Ohtani has been spinning his wheels at Angel Stadium for the last seven years.

So this offseason, Shohei Ohtani was a free agent looking for a new team. He ended up with a fat contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went and spent a lot of money this year in hopes of getting back to the playoffs this coming fall. Everything was looking good for the Dodgers, who also landed a rookie pitcher out of Japan, Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

And then the news broke during the Seoul series between the Dodgers and Padres that Ippei Mizuhara, who has been with Shohei Ohtani as an interpreter since 2013 and followed him to the United States in 2018, was caught illegally gambling on sports through an investigation into the bookie he was using. And that was just the beginning of the craziness. Initially, Mizuhara claimed that Ohtani – whose name showed up on the bank transfers to the bookie, Mathew Bowyer – was giving him money to cover Mizuhara’s massive gambling debts. Right after that, the Dodgers fired Mizuhara and Ohtani’s lawyers instead insisted that Mizuhara had been stealing money from Ohtani.

Initially, a spokesman for Ohtani told ESPN the slugger had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debt. The spokesman presented Mizuhara to ESPN for a 90-minute interview Tuesday night, during which Mizuhara laid out his account in great detail. However, as ESPN prepared to publish the story Wednesday, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said Ohtani’s lawyers would issue a statement.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” read the statement from Berk Brettler LLP.

The spokesman declined to answer any further questions, and the statement did not specify whom they believe perpetrated the alleged theft.

The developments this week came as federal investigators are examining the operation run by Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. The wire-transfer payments were sent from Ohtani’s account to an associate of Bowyer’s, according to multiple sources and bank data reviewed by ESPN. Multiple sources, including Mizuhara, told ESPN that Ohtani does not gamble and that the funds covered Mizuhara’s losses.

ESPN had reviewed bank information showing Ohtani’s name on two $500,000 payments sent in September and October.

While sports betting is legal in nearly 40 states, it remains illegal in California. Government-regulated sportsbooks require bettors to pay up front for their wagers, while illegal bookmakers accept bets on credit.

Sources close to the gambling operation told ESPN that Bowyer dealt directly with Mizuhara, who placed bets on international soccer matches and other sports — but not baseball — starting in 2021. A source said Bowyer was aware of the name on the wire transfers but chose not to ask any questions as long as payments came in; however, the source said Bowyer allowed people to believe Ohtani was a client in order to boost business.

Mizuhara then changed HIS story, and insisted that Shohei Ohtani never gave him money and never had any awareness of his gambling issues. Mizuhara also says he never betted on baseball, only other sports like international soccer and football.

And we are not talking about small change, either.

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, citing multiple unnamed sources, said on CNN’s “The Lead” Wednesday at least $4.5 million was withdrawn via wire transfer from Ohtani’s bank accounts, though it is unclear who initiated the transfers.

Obviously, the entire situation has got the sports world in a tizzy. Shohei Ohtani has made himself, through his talent and his famously reclusive personality, the current face of Major League Baseball. MLB really does not want their superstar dragged into a gambling scandal, but they know they have to go through an investigation.

If I was a betting woman (perhaps a poor analogy in the current situation) and with my personal cultural understanding of the Japanese mind, I would say that Ippei Mizuhara will commit the 21st century version of seppuku (ritual suicide) for Shohei Ohtani. The 21st century version will be taking all the legal blame on himself, sticking to a version of events that either casts Ohtani as innocent, or a friend who just wanted to help him out of his gambling debts. Mizuhara will fall on his proverbial sword to save Ohtani. The question then becomes, will that satisfy MLB – or will their investigation turn over more rocks instead?

After days of silence, Shohei Ohtani finally gave a statement to the press. He took no questions. He is sticking to the line that Mizuhara was stealing from him, and that he had no idea about the gambling debts until Mizuhara told him in South Korea.

Will this be enough to keep the press quiet? Doubtful, but they also know that there won’t be a chance to ask Ohtani questions. Now, the investigation gets to play out, but it’s going to take a while before Shohei Ohtani is actually cleared by MLB.

Featured image: original Victory Girls art by Darleen Click

Written by

  • John Shepherd says:

    Tojo took the fall for Hirohito. That is the retainer’s duty. Just saying.

    I tell you in advance Ippie really did commit suicide.

  • Lloyd says:

    Yep…The STAR had a “fall guy” to protect him. Pete Rose is right: If he had an interpreter, he’d be in the HOF

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become a Victory Girl!

Are you interested in writing for Victory Girls? If you’d like to blog about politics and current events from a conservative POV, send us a writing sample here.
Ava Gardner