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Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal: Major holes poked in Ippei Mizuhara's pre-Ohtani résumé

The Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal has somehow become even weirder.

Last we left the Los Angeles Dodgers star, his camp had accused his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, of stealing $4.5 million to cover his illegal gambling debts, though only after telling a reporter that Ohtani had agreed to give Mizuhara the money. Since then, Mizuhara has been fired, and MLB has opened an investigation into the matter.

The situation, naturally, has drawn scrutiny for the 39-year-old Mizuhara, and it appears that the spotlight is burning some holes in his résumé before he met Ohtani — namely, his education and past experience in baseball.

UC Riverside says Ippei Mizuhara never attended the school

Before this week, Mizuhara was widely reported to have been born in Hokkaido, Japan, moved to the U.S. at a young age, attended Diamond Bar High School in Los Angeles County and graduated from the University of California-Riverside in 2007.

It appears that last part, which was stated as fact in the Angels' 2023 media guide, is not true. UC Riverside told The Athletic's Sam Blum that it has no record of Mizuhara attending the school:

“Our university records do not show a student by the name of Ippei Mizuhara having attended UC Riverside.”

UC Riverside reportedly didn't respond when asked if Mizuhara could have attended the school under a different name, but he definitely went by the name in high school, as his high school soccer coach described him as a hard worker to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune last week.

Red Sox say Ippei Mizuhara never worked for the team

The lore of Ohtani and Mizuhara's friendship is based around them both joining the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2013, Ohtani as a rookie first overall pick and Mizuhara as an interpreter for the team's English-speaking players.

Before that, Mizuhara was said to have worked his first job in baseball as an interpreter for Boston Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima from 2007 to 2011.

The Red Sox released a statement Friday saying that Mizuhara had never worked for them in any way:

"We are reaching out to all of you because of reports in various outlets stating that Ippei Mizuhara worked for the Red Sox as an interpreter, which is incorrect. Mizuhara was never employed by the Boston Red Sox in any capacity and was not an interpreter for Hideki Okajima during the pitcher's time with the team. Please know we have thoroughly checked our files to ensure we are providing accurate information."

Mizuhara apparently wasn't that good of an interpreter either, if you believe Jon Heyman of the New York Post. That makes a lot more sense now.

Ippei Mizuhara couldn't have worked for the Yankees either

After the Red Sox, the Angels media guide stated that Mizuhara continued to interpret for Okajima with the New York Yankees in spring training 2012.

As The Athletic notes, there's one problem with that: Okajima reportedly failed a physical with the Yankees on Feb. 17, 2012, before the beginning of spring training. It's possible that Mizuhara could have interpreted for Okajima in the time between when he signed the minor-league deal and the start of camp, but that seems unlikely.

Ippei Mizuhara had a dream job interpreting for Shohei Ohtani. It has all come crashing down. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Ippei Mizuhara had a dream job interpreting for Shohei Ohtani. It has all come crashing down. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

So what does all this mean?

We know Mizuhara graduated high school in 2003 and joined the Fighters in 2013, where he met Ohtani. In the 10 years between, he was widely reported to have attended college in the U.S. and worked for two different MLB teams, but there is now a gaping hole in that background. It makes you wonder what kind of vetting the Fighters did when hiring him.

From there, Mizuhara befriended Ohtani starting when the slugger was 19, went with him to the Angels and followed him to the Dodgers. He wasn't just an interpreter; he was Ohtani's personal assistant and one of his best friends.

There are many ways this saga could play out in the coming months as MLB and other authorities investigate, but so far, it seems that every day of this scandal has made the situation worse for Mizuhara.