Shohei Ohtani
New Dodger Shohei Ohtani | SCREENSHOT: Purely Baseball/youtube Credit: Purely Baseball on YouTube

Ippei Mizuhara Implicated In Potential Theft Of More Than $4.5 Million

On March 21, a major scandal broke involving the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new $700 million star, Shohei Ohtani. According to multiple media outlets, Ohtani’s longtime friend interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, stole more than $4.5 million from the Japanese-born player’s bank account, monies that Mizuhara placed on huge gambling bets.

Authorities believe that Mizuhara bet mostly on international and other sports, but not on MLB baseball. As with many breaking stories some details have changed as the story has developed. Originally, reports indicated that Ohtani transferred the funds himself to cover his friend’s gambling debts. Later, however, a spokesman for Ohtani revised that account:

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.
Ohtani Press Conference
Shohei Ohtani Press Conference | SCREENSHOT: Associated Press/YouTube Credit: Associated Press on YouTube

Ohtani Not Currently Implicated In Mizuhara’s Gambling

The story has generated huge traffic on social media, including references to Pete Rose. However, at this time no one has indicated that Ohtani was involved in Mizuhara’s prolific gambling habit, nor have there been any allegations of gambling on Major League Baseball games. However, considering the close friendship between the two, many have been suspicious of the claim that Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling.

The Dodgers did not allow the press to speak to Ohtani after last night’s season-opening game, a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, played in South Korea.

This morning, ESPN’s Ryan Clark, Tisha Thompson, and Jessica Mendoza attempted to make some sense of the developing events.

According to ESPN and other news outlets, Mizuhara has accepted full responsibility for all of the gambling and the $4.5 million wired from Ohtani’s account.

Scandal Could Mar Ohtani’s Debut With The Dodgers

Ohtani, a two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels, was the talk of baseball after his off-season signing with the Dodgers for a record $700 million, making him the highest-paid player in North American sports history. The hype over his signing was so big that MLB analyst Ben Verlander even called it “the most important signing in Dodgers’ history” (embarrassingly neglecting the landmark debut of Jackie Robinson in Dodger Blue).

The scandal involving his friend and now-fired interpreter Mizuhara could amount to no more than a stumbling block out of the gate for Ohtani as a Dodger. But with the attention of the entire baseball world (and much of the sports world in general) now squarely focused on both Ohtani and Mizuhara — not to mention the confusing details of the early reports — any additional developments in the scandal could create more problems.

Given all of that traffic, confusion, changing information, and attention, Dan Patrick, longtime sports analyst, reporter, and host, offered caution on the importance of getting the story right and not just getting it “first,” advising reporters to dig in deep to get all of the details.

One thing is for sure: the story is not going away anytime soon for Ohtani or the Dodgers. Bounding Into Sports will report on any additional significant details on this story as they become available.

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