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Ohtani 'beyond shocked' at allegations of gambling by his interpreter

For the first time since his interpreter was fired amid allegations he was engaged in illegal gambling, Shohei Ohtani spoke to the media.
Ohtani 'beyond shocked' at allegations of gambling by his interpreter
Posted at 5:03 AM, Mar 25, 2024

Shohei Ohtani spoke to the media Monday for the first time since the illegal gambling and theft allegations involving the Los Angeles Dodgers star and his interpreter emerged during the team’s trip to South Korea.

The interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers last week when the team opened the season with two games against the San Diego Padres in Seoul.

Manager Dave Roberts endorsed Ohtani addressing the matter publicly. He said it was the two-way superstar's decision to do so.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Roberts said. “I’m happy he’s going to speak, and speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it will give us all a little bit more clarity.”

Speaking with the assistance of an interpreter, Ohtani gave a prepared statement.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports, never asked anyone to do that on my behalf, and never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports," Ohtani said. "Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know that this was happening."

"Ippei has been stealing money from my account, and has told lies," Ohtani said.

Ohtani said Mizuhara told the media that Ohtani had paid off debts on a friend’s behalf. Ohtani called this a "complete lie."

Ohtani said Mizuhara spoke with him in a one-on-one meeting, at which point Ohtani contacted his lawyers and officials with the Dodgers organization. He said this was the first time those officials learned of Mizuhara’s claims.

"I’m beyond shocked. It’s hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point," Ohtani said. "The season’s going to start, so I’m obviously going to let my lawyers handle matters from here on out."

Ohtani said he would fully cooperate with all investigations going forward.

SEE MORE: Is baseball star Shohei Ohtani a victim of theft, or is he in trouble?

Mizuhara was let go from the team following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and claims from Ohtani’s attorneys that the Japanese star had been the victim of a “massive theft.”

Major League Baseball has opened an investigation of the matter. The Internal Revenue Service has confirmed that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker in Orange County, California, are under criminal investigation.

Will Ireton, the team's performance operations manager, has taken over translation duties for Ohtani. He previously did the same for then-Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda, who is Japanese.

Ohtani made only a brief appearance in the Dodgers clubhouse before Sunday's Freeway Series opener against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels. The teams are playing three exhibition games before the Dodgers host St. Louis in their home opener on Thursday.

Ohtani was cheered loudly by the crowd of 42,607 each time he came to the plate for his first game as a Dodger in his home stadium. As the designated hitter, he went 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout before leaving.

He's also expected to play Monday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Anaheim, where he was a two-time AL MVP before leaving the Angels as a free agent to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in December.

SEE MORE: Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired after allegations of theft, gambling

Roberts said Ohtani has not addressed his teammates as a group.

“I think that he’s had one-off conversations with players,” Roberts said.

The manager said he checked in with Ohtani to see how he's doing.

“He's kind of business as usual,” Roberts said.

Ohtani has a double locker in the Dodgers clubhouse located between the shower room and fellow Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is slated to make his second start of the season on Saturday against St. Louis.

Extra security was posted in the jammed clubhouse on Sunday. Besides the players and a horde of media, eight temporary lockers were set up at one end for minor leaguers brought over from Arizona for the Freeway Series.

Overhead televisions were tuned to men's NCAA Tournament games, baseball and horse racing, with former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca offering TV handicapping tips on the day's races.

The MLB gambling policy is posted in every clubhouse. Betting on baseball — legally or not — is punishable with a one-year ban from the sport. The penalty for betting on other sports illegally is at the commissioner’s discretion. Sports gambling is illegal in California, even as 38 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of it.

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