Shohei Ohtani in deep water

Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In recent days, news broke out about a gambling scandal involving Ohtani and long time friend Ippei Mizuhara. Mizuhara became Ohtani’s interpreter in 2018 when Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels.

 

Mizurhara became Ohtani’s other half, with the two having a close relationship. In 2021, Mizuhara reportedly met with a Southern California bookmaker at a poker game in San Diego. Later, in 2022, Mizuhara began borrowing money from family members and close friends. Shortly after, in 2023, Mizuhara’s gambling debts reportedly reached $4 million.

 

In September and October 2023, Ohtani’s name appeared on two wire transfers totaling $1 million. The classification of the transactions was “loan.” The recipient of the transfers was Mathew Bowyer, the bookmaker that Mizuhara had met.

 

According to Mizuhara, Ohtani had no clue that the money was going to a bookmaker.

 

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering on baseball. Those rules also forbid betting on any sport through illegal or offshore bookmakers.

 

In October, Federal agents had a search warrant and raided Bowyer’s home, and in December, Ohtani signed with the Dodgers.

 

The contract Ohtani signed was for $700 million, the largest contract in MLB history. $680 million of the payout was deferred, and Mizuhara joined Ohtani with the Dodgers. In January 2024, the agents who raided Bowyer’s home discovered Ohtani’s name on the wire transfers.

 

On March 18, reporters reached out to Ohtani’s agent and asked about the transfers to Bowyer. Soon after this interaction, the Ohtani team hired a crisis communications expert. The spokesperson for Ohtani recounted the story and claimed Ohtani made the payments to cover Mizuhara’s debts to Bowyer.

 

The Spokesperson confirmed Mizuharas’s gambling debts totaled at least $4.5 million. In an interview with Mizuhara, he claimed to be placing bets through Draftkings and assumed he could also legally place bets through Bowyer’s outlet. He also stated that Ohtani had no involvement in the betting and had no idea it was illegal in the MLB.

 

The Dodgers started their season with a 5-2 win against the Padres, in Soul, South Korea. During the game, Mizuhara was seen in the dugout talking with Ohtani at times. After the game, the Dodgers owner met with the players and addressed the story that would be released. Mizuhara told the team about his gambling addiction, and the club president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, told the players that Ohtani had been helping to cover the debts.

 

As the stories were about to be published, Ohtani’s spokesperson denied Mizuhara’s versions of the story and said that Ohtani’s lawyers would be making a public statement.

 

The statement said that Shohei was a victim of a massive theft and was turned over to the authorities. Mizuhara was ordered not to comment on the development, and recanted his initial statements. Mizuhara then clarified that Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling bets and had not been telling the truth about what had been happening.

 

The following week, Ohtani declined to answer any questions following the Dodgers’ loss to the Padres. During the day, the IRS had launched a criminal investigation of Mizuhara and Bowyer. An attorney for Bowyer told CBS Sports that her client had no contact with Ohtani.

 

The next day, the MLB released a statement that they are gathering information since learning about the allegations involving both Ohtani and Mizuhara.

 

On March 25, Ohtani broke his silence and spoke to the media at Dodger Stadium. He talked about how shocked and saddened he was to hear that someone he had trusted had done this to him. He talked about how he knew about the gambling, and found out after the first game in Korea, and did not have a translator. Ohtani clarified he had no involvement and did not willfully send money to the bookmaker.

 

Just a day later, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts suggested that the team’s communication with Ohtani would improve with Mizuhara no longer functioning as a gatekeeper. Ohtani approved the team’s request and is currently in the search for a new interpreter.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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