Ohtani's interpreter to catch in HR Derby

July 11th, 2021

SEATTLE -- It’s not just who will be pulling double duty as part of All-Star Game festivities next week at Colorado’s Coors Field, as his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara will serve as his catcher when he participates in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night.

Mizuhara, who has served as Ohtani’s interpreter since his rookie season in 2018, is a star in his own right among Angels fans. Now, he’ll get the exciting opportunity to be behind the plate while Ohtani competes in the Derby. Bullpen catcher Jason Brown gets the honor of throwing to Ohtani, who will also pitch and hit in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

“I’m excited about everything,” Mizuhara said. “He’s probably going to hit and pitch. That’s going to be the first. I just want to be able to enjoy everything, including the Home Run Derby.”

Mizuhara put on catching gear before Saturday’s game against the Mariners to get some practice with shortstop José Iglesias at the plate. But he has some experience as he's caught some of Ohtani’s bullpen sessions in the offseason. He borrowed equipment from Max Stassi, who loaned Mizuhara gear he used on July 4.

“It was for the Fourth of July,” Mizuhara said. “So he told me it’d be appropriate for the All-Star Game.”

Mizuhara and Ohtani go back to their time together with the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league from 2013-17. Mizuhara was an interpreter for the club's English-speaking players, but when Ohtani signed with the Angels, he asked Mizuhara to serve as his interpreter in the Majors. Mizuhara was born in Japan and grew up near Anaheim, attending Diamond Bar High School and UC Riverside.

Mizuhara said he’s hopeful that Ohtani will win the Home Run Derby, an event he’s participating in for the first time in the Majors. He’s set to face Washington’s Juan Soto in the first round.

“I think as long as he does what he does normally, he’ll be in a good place,” Mizuhara said. “There’s not much I can do. I’m just sitting there, so I get the best view.”