Ohtani addresses ex-interpreter’s gambling scandal: ‘I never bet on baseball or any other sport’

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“I never bet on baseball, or any other sports,” Shohei Ohtani told a room packed with over 70 reporters on Monday. “I never have asked anybody to do that on my behalf. I never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Baseball’s biggest star would reiterate that he didn’t bet throughout the statement to the media, his first since news broke last week that his longtime translator and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal.

Several high-ranking team officials and teammates followed Ohtani into the room at Dodger Stadium, including manager Dave Roberts, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, and CEO Stan Kasten. But for the 11 and a half minute address of the media, Ohtani and his new translator, team employee Will Ireton sat alone.

“First of all, thank you very much for coming,” Ohtani began. “I wanted to be here today to be able to talk. I’m sure it was very tough — it’s been a tough week for fans and team officials, and I’m very grateful that the media has been patient in this process. Just on a personal note, I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this.”

“Obviously today there’s things that I’m limited in being able to talk about,” he cautioned. “I hope you understand.”

Mizuhara, 39, had been Ohtani’s interpreter for his entire Major League career, but their relationship dated back several years before the two-way player signed with the Los Angeles Angels during the 2017-18 offseason. They met during when Ohtani was a rookie on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and Mizuhara was translating for the Japanese team’s English-speaking players.

But Mizuhara had become more than just an interpreter to Ohtani. At times he was also the superstar’s driver, errand man, training partner, and friend. Mizuhara caught for Ohtani during the 2021 Home Run Derby. Former Angels manager Joe Maddon once told Kyodo News said the two went together like “peanut butter and jelly.”

So when Ohtani signed his record-breaking $700 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason, it was a given that they’d hire Mizuhara, too.

“Up until a couple days ago, I had no idea this was happening,” the two-way star went on. “Last weekend in Korea, media had reached out to a representative in my camp inquiring about my potential involvement in sports betting.”

The Dodgers and Padres were opening the regular season in Seoul when news broke that Mizuhara had allegedly wired several large payments totaling over $4.5 million from an account in Ohtani’s name to a bookmaker who is currently the subject of a federal investigation. Mizuhara initially told ESPN that Ohtani was aware of his debts and though angry, agreed to help pay them off – the same story he allegedly told Ohtani’s representatives. However, he backtracked in his second interview with the outlet. He claimed that the baseball star, whom he said abhors gambling, had no knowledge of the situation. The one thing he maintained among his conflicting tales was that he’d never bet on baseball.

“Ippei never revealed to me that there was this media inquiry, and to the representatives in my camp he told, Ippei told, to the media and to my representatives that I, on behalf of a friend, paid off debt,” Ohtani said. “Upon further questioning, it was revealed that it was actually, in fact, Ippei who was in debt, and told my representatives that I was paying off those debts. All of this has been a complete lie.”

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” he added.

Ohtani said that he first found out about Mizuhara’s gambling because of the clubhouse meeting in Seoul last Wednesday.

“During the team meeting, obviously, Ippei was speaking in English and I didn’t have a translator on my side,” Ohtani explained, “but even with that, I kind of understood what was going on and started to feel that there was something amiss.”

Ohtani went on to explain that his former interpreter and friend finally came clean to him when they spoke one-on-one later at the hotel that night, at which time Mizuhara admitted to sending payments to the bookmaker.

“Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,” Ohtani said. “Obviously at that point, or, obviously I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker. And finally, when we went back to the hotel and talked one-to-one, that’s when I found out that he had a massive debt. And it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money, using my account, to the bookmaker.”

“At that moment, it was obviously an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point,” he continued. “When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out that Ippei has been lying the whole time, and that’s when I started contacting the Dodgers and my lawyers. And the Dodgers and the lawyers at that moment found out also as well that they have been lied to.”

That night, his attorneys at Berk Brettler LLP declared that Ohtani “had been the victim of a massive theft.”

Mizuhara was subsequently fired by the Dodgers and is now under federal investigation by the IRS. On Friday, Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations announced it would be conducting its own probe.

“I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now,” Ohtani said.

He didn’t take questions.

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