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" It Ain't So Sho": What Is Going On With Shohei Ohtani?

Shohei Ohtani ready to bat

Getty Images

Opening Day kicks off on Thursday, but much of the talk around the MLB has been focused on the drama surrounding one of baseball’s biggest stars, Los Angeles Dodgers megastar Shohei Ohtani

So far in his brief MLB career, Ohtani has been a class act and a role model to many kids across the globe. He's a great example of what a professional athlete should aspire to be, with a clean unscathed record.

But recently, he found himself in the first controversy of his incredible career, when it was alleged that the Japanese superstar’s former (now fired) interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, accumulated gambling debts of at least $4.5 million in wire transfers sent from Ohtani's bank account to a bookmaking operation.

The revelation set off a series of events per ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, Mizuhara incurred gambling debts with a Southern California bookmaking operation under federal investigation.

Mizuhara did a 90-minute interview with Thompson and claimed the betting started as early as 2021, when he met the initial bookmaker, claiming the wire transfers happened in October 2023.

Ohtani’s lawyers issued 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 a statement from Berk Bettler LLP.

This week's developments came as federal investigators examined the operation run by Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. The wire-transfer payments are from Ohtani’s accounts, per multiple sources and bank data, and reviewed by ESPN.

Ohtani’s name was on two $500,000 payments sent in September and October. For those who don’t know, sports betting is legal in nearly 40 states but remains illegal in California.

This isn’t Mizuhara’s first time betting with Bowyer, as he also betted on international soccer matches and other sports– but not baseball – until 2021. Bowyer saw Ohtani on the wire transfers; despite that, he thought nothing of it as long as the money was coming in to boost business.

Mizuhara did state Ohtani had no involvement with betting after initially stating Ohtani helped bail him out. Mizuhara also claimed that Ohtani wasn’t happy about his betting when he told Ohtani about it.

"I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. 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."

MLB players and employees are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball but not with illegal bookmakers or offshore websites. The league rulebook states that bets placed with illegal bookmakers are subject to punishment at the commissioner's discretion.

A Major League Baseball source told ESPN the league had not been contacted by federal authorities, who weren’t aware until recently.

Baseball’s biggest star, with the highest-selling jersey, spoke with the media on Tuesday:

Ohtani and Mizuhara had been longtime friends who came to the United States together in 2018 and was the one who accompanied the baseball star at games, in the locker rooms, dugouts, and on trips...

As shown in the video above, Ohtani found out about the magnitude of the gambling situation and fired his interpreter after the Dodgers opened the season in the Seoul Series in South Korea.  

This is a continuing ongoing investigation that still leaves many questions unanswered. How was Mizuhara able to use $4.5 million and wire transfers in Ohtani’s name without him knowing for two years? Was Ohtani unaware that Mizuhara had been pulling off a massive theft?

What will happen to Ohtani? Will he be suspended? If so how long? Will he be banned if it’s found he was aware of what was going on? All important questions that must be answered as this investigation goes on.

There’s one conclusion we can all come to though. Baseball needs Ohtani and his star power in a big market where he has a chance to win and be in front of a global audience.

He is one of the greatest baseball players in history (just look at his contract). While the outcome of this potential scandal won’t be decided for months, It’ll be a shame if  Ohtani’s first season with the Dodgers is inhibited in any way because everyone is waiting for the rock star LA Dodgers to come through.


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