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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Baseball Superstar Shohei Ohtani Emerges at Center of Scandal

AP Photo / Ryan Sun

Shohei Ohtani, the $700 million dollar two-way baseball superstar of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is at the center of a sports betting scandal involving his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. 

On Sunday, March 17, ESPN received information that Ohtani’s name appeared on two wire transfers sent to a bookmaking operation led by Matthew Bowyer. This story was alarming because Bowyer is under federal investigation for running an illegal bookmaking operation out of Southern California.

On Monday, March 18, ESPN reached out to Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent. A different spokesperson for Ohtani, who was not named, responded and informed ESPN that Ohtani’s name appeared on the transfers because he was paying off Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling debts. 

On Tuesday, March 19, ESPN spoke with Mizuhara in a 90-minute interview, during which many new details were revealed. Mizuhara shared that he met Bowyer at a poker game in 2021, started betting with him on several different sports, developed an addiction, accumulated $4 million of debt by 2023 and asked Ohtani for help paying off the debt.

ESPN reported that “after Ohtani agreed to pay the debts, the two of them logged into Ohtani’s bank account on Ohtani’s computer and sent eight or nine transactions, each at $500,000, over several months.” At this point in the development of the story, it appeared that Ohtani knowingly paid off Mizuhara’s gambling debts.

But on Wednesday, March 20, Ohtani apparently learned for the first time that money was missing from his account and everything that had been previously reported was flipped upside down. Ohtani’s spokesperson now claimed that “Ippei was lying […]. [Ohtani] didn’t know.” 

This is also when Ohtani’s lawyers at Berk Brettler LLP released a statement to ESPN.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that [Ohtani] has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” the statement read.

Shortly after these events, the Dodgers fired Mizuhara. ESPN then reached out to him again and reported on their findings.

“[Mizuhara] had lied in his previous interview and walks back much of what he had said,” ESPN reported. “[He tells ESPN Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activities, debts or efforts to repay them.”

On Monday, March 25, Ohtani addressed a sizable cohort of media members in a 12-minute press conference, speaking through his new interpreter.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said. “And I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Ohtani also confirmed during the press conference that he did not know of Mizuhara’s gambling addiction until March 20 and did not pay off any of Mizuhara’s gambling debts. Major League Baseball (MLB) is currently investigating the situation and has not released any major updates as of yet.

There are a few questions to be raised about the scandal. Why did Ohtani’s spokesperson initially say that Ohtani helped pay off the gambling debts just to change that story later on? Either Ohtani was aware of the wire transfers or he was not, and it’s concerning that different stories were reported within a few days.

Additionally, Mizuhara first said that Ohtani was aware of the transfers in his first ESPN interview, only to tell ESPN in a subsequent interview that he was lying. Why did Mizuhara lie?

It’s important to acknowledge that other questions have been raised about Mizuhara’s record. Public biographies show that he graduated from the University of California Riverside, but the school has no record of his attendance.

In addition, the biographies show that he worked as a team translator for the Boston Red Sox, but the Red Sox have denied that he worked for them. So, people are skeptical about believing Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, but they are also skeptical of Ohtani for being so close to someone so questionable and shady.

Now, what could happen to the $700 million superstar? It all will come down to how much Ohtani knew, and Ohtani claims he knew nothing. Legal expert Nelson Rose commented on the situation, per CBS Sports.

If Ohtani did knowingly wire the money to pay Mizuhara’s debt, either to Mizuhara or directly to the bookie, he could be considered complicit in helping an illegal gambler collect,” Rose said. 

Of course, there is still so much we don’t know. We don’t know why Ohtani’s spokesperson initially reported that Ohtani paid off Mizuhara’s debts. We don’t know why Mizuhara changed his story. Perhaps most perplexing, we don’t know how Mizuhara — who was practically best friends with Ohtani for six years could get away with stealing millions of dollars without Ohtani finding out. 

As MLB’s investigation unfolds, we will hopefully get to the bottom of this scandal. It would be a relief for the baseball world if Ohtani, a generational talent, is innocent and can continue his stellar career. But, if Ohtani is somehow guilty in this scandal, we could witness the tragic fall of one of the best baseball players that ever lived.

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  • D

    DeeApr 12, 2024 at 5:04 pm

    Go Dodgers!!!

  • T

    Toby JonesApr 10, 2024 at 8:21 am

    I believe Ohtani is guilty and should suffer the consequences