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Dodgers’ Ohtani embroiled in gambling controversy

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Shoei Ohtani found himself in a scandal when his interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers for his connections with sports betting. Ohtani denies ever willingly taking part in the matter. Photo courtesy of the MLB.

Almost a week has passed since Shohei Ohtani addressed rumors and speculation that he was involved in gambling, which some say is baseball’s greatest sin, after his interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers for his connections to a bookmaker someone who handles bets and money gambling for sports betting. 

Mizuhara has a long history with Ohtani, whom he met back in 2013 while working for the Japanese baseball league’s Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s first professional team, and has become more than just an interpreter for the star.  

The scandal involves 4.5 million dollars’ worth of gambling debt Mizuhara allegedly accumulated with a Southern California bookmaking operation. Ohtani’s name appears on two separate wire transactions totaling one million dollars to the supposed leader of the bookmaking operation, Mathew Bowyer, according to ESPN. 

ESPN later reported that initially, a spokesperson for Ohtani, Nez Balelo, at the time claimed that Mizuhara had come clean, and that Ohtani told Balelo that he had been covering the gambling debt in increments of five hundred thousand dollars at a time. A story that Ohtani denied in his press conference March 25.  

Ohtani, now in the middle of a scandal, did not describe the situation as he spoke through a interpreter, Will Ireton. Ireton had been working for the Dodgers and, most recently, was the interpreter for another Japanese-born Dodger, Kenta Maeda. 

“In conclusion, I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or willfully sent money to the bookmaker,” Ohtani said via his interpreter. 

As questions came up, fans found themselves drawing comparisons to baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, who carries a lifetime ban from the sport after it was discovered he had been betting on football, basketball, and horse racing while playing and managing the Cincinnati Reds during his career.

Rose’s betting on baseball was just a rumor until he came clean in 2004 when he admitted to betting on baseball games, including games that the Reds were playing. Rose also stated that he never bet against his team. 

Professional sports players and stars like Wayne Rooney, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan have all had their fair share of issues with gambling in the past like Rose.

For Ohtani, being linked to the greats in such a way is likely not what he had in mind, yet rumors and speculation surround him on the possibility that he himself was betting with a bookie. 

For Dodger fans, Ohtani seems genuine and honest. 

“It’s wild, you know, to get mixed up in something that deals with so much money, but I think he’s telling the truth. Why would he risk what he has, everything he’s worked for up to now, for some side bets and things like that? It wouldn’t make sense.” Dodgers fan Arturo Cruz said.

Still, some Dodger fans seem to worry that this could be a distraction moving forward.

“Yeah, I mean, this story dropped when we were playing our season opening series against the Padres. How could you as a player keep that kind of scandal out of your head, and then as teammates, how could you not wonder about the team’s future when something that crazy gets reported,” Cruz said.

Mizuhara has since declined to comment further on the ongoings and will be subject to investigation pending legal proceedings that are to take place in the future regarding the 4.5 million dollars he is said to have stolen.

As for the Dodgers, the game is now wait and see; Ohtani has said he will be cooperative and assist his legal team with whatever they need moving forward. As the season nears its start seeing Ohtani face the same fate as Rose could be a roll of the dice.

Jorge Guajardo is a staff reporter for the prospector and can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Jorge Guajardo
Jorge Guajardo, Staff Reporter
Jorge Ian Guajardo, is 30 years old and born and raised in El Paso. He is majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in English rhetoric. He is a contributor at The Prospector looking to lay the foundation for a long and successful career in journalism once he graduates.
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