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What do Shohei’s Accounts Show?

How a global superstar's reputation is at risk


Even people without the slightest interest in baseball know Shohei Ohtani. Those unfamiliar with the sport’s technicalities will be satisfied knowing he is very good at it, but a little perspective is required. Ohtani is a two-way player, meaning he is both an excellent pitcher and hitter. Being a pitcher means you will get injured — usually a lot. Hitting at the same time will only exacerbate those injuries. Ohtani has sustained his fair share of injuries too, but has also managed to stay healthy enough for his two-way talents to have an impact.

And what an impact they have had. In 2023, he was arguably the best hitter and pitcher in MLB simultaneously. He led his home nation of Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic, a match that was watched by over 50 million fans in Japan alone. His success on the pitch is rivalled only by his marketability. Ohtani is a national hero in Japan and a celebrity throughout Asia, offering him a global reach unheard of in baseball. Whichever team he plays for in MLB will also be the most popular team in the world. His prowess and market value were enough to make him the most expensive athlete in history; the Los Angeles Dodgers shelled out 700 million dollars, albeit mostly deferred, to sign him from the Los Angeles Angels.


Ohtani has achieved all of this while also maintaining a squeaky-clean reputation. He is considered humble, passionate and hard-working, almost to a fault. He leads an almost monastic baseball existence, rarely talking to the media it was a surprise to everyone when he announced his marriage to, as he described her, “a normal Japanese woman”. Still, the sense of intrigue has added to the Ohtani effect. Combine a likeable (or at least hard-to-dislike) personality with immense sporting talent and the likelihood is you’ll go down in history.


That’s why it was so shocking to see Ohtani’s name in the headlines for the wrong reasons — it simply hadn’t happened before. The scandal in question was also unexpected, not to mention utterly bizarre. A betting scandal? Shohei Ohtani? Really?


For much of his career, Shohei Ohtani has had an ‘interpreter’ named Ippei Mizuhara. That label, ‘interpreter’, is woefully insufficient; they were so inseparable one wonders if Mizuhara also followed him to the toilet. Mizuhara was his valet, his assistant, his friend, his shadow and apparently, also his thief. According to ESPN, at least 4.5 million dollars were transferred from Ohtani’s account to an illegal bookmaker. Mizuhara initially claimed that Ohtani was paying off his gambling debts. This was later contradicted by Ohtani himself, who announced publicly that Mizuhara had lied and simply stolen the money, committing fraud in the process.


The scandal has been passed over to the authorities and is ongoing. At the very least, Ohtani is an incorrigible dupe in this situation — at worst, he is the gambling addict and Mizuhara is the fall guy. Either way, it is the first notable stain on Ohtani’s reputation. A celebrity’s image is just that: an image. It’s impossible to know what the most glamorous names get up to behind closed doors, and when we do find out, we usually wish we hadn’t.



Image from Wikimedia Commons

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