MLB begins investigation into Ohtani, Mizuhara matter

March 22nd, 2024

Major League Baseball has launched an investigation into the gambling allegations surrounding Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s longtime interpreter and close confidant, the league announced Friday.

MLB issued the following statement:

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media. Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

The Dodgers fired Mizuhara Wednesday after he was accused of committing a “massive theft” against the Dodgers superstar in relation to an illegal bookmaking operation.

Per the Los Angeles Times report, Mizuhara was accused of using "millions of dollars” of Ohtani’s money – ESPN has reported the sum being at least $4.5 million – in order to pay off bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker who is currently under federal investigation.

Ohtani’s name had surfaced in the investigation of Mathew Bowyer, the Times reported, prompting Ohtani’s attorneys to make the claim against Mizuhara.

“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,” said the law firm Berk Brettler in a statement to the newspaper.

According to ESPN’s sources, neither the California Bureau of Investigation nor the FBI was working on the case. The Los Angeles Police Department and district attorney's offices in Los Angeles and Orange counties also told ESPN they were not investigating the matter, indicating it “was most likely a federal matter.” The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California declined to comment to ESPN.

According to the Times’ sources, Mizuhara placed bets with Bowyer, then lied to the Dodgers when asked about the Times’ inquiries into the matter. Mizuhara was in Seoul translating for Ohtani during the Dodgers’ season-opening series, but he was fired after the reports surfaced on Wednesday.

The Dodgers issued the following statement on Wednesday:

"The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information. The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time."

Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, told the Times that her client has not been charged with a crime, though the paper reported that his home had been raided by federal agents last year as part of an investigation. Bass also told the Times that Bowyer never had any contact with Ohtani.

“Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani,” Bass said. In an interview with ESPN, a day after providing a different version of events, Mizuhara emphasized that point on Wednesday.

“I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting,” Mizuhara told ESPN. “I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again."

Mizuhara also said: “I never bet on baseball, that's 100%. I knew that rule ... We have a meeting about that in Spring Training.”

Major League Baseball’s Rule 21 (d)(3) states that “Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who places bets with illegal book makers, or agents for illegal book makers, shall be subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct.”

In 2015, Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart was fined and not suspended by MLB for violating Rule 21 (d)(3), though after it was determined by the league that Cosart had not bet on baseball.