Disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy: Shohei Ohtani 'absolutely' knew about interpreter's gambling addiction

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As Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, is dealing with the legal matters of his gambling scandal, many still question how much the two-way baseball player knew about it before everything blew up in the public eye. 

Before the 2024 regular season began, Ohtani held a press conference, during which no media was allowed to ask questions and he said he has “never” bet on sports and Mizuhara’s claim that Ohtani was voluntarily paying off his massive gambling debt was a “complete lie.”

However, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who went to prison after admitting he bet on games he officiated in many seasons in the early 2000s, isn’t buying that Ohtani had no clue about Mizuhara’s gambling addiction. 


Shohei Ohtani speaks to the media

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks to the media at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Donaghy made an appearance on OutKick’s “Hot Mic,” when he was asked if there’s any way Ohtani didn’t know. 

“Heck no,” he responded. “I think Major League Baseball was smart to sweep this under the rug as quickly as possible. You look at that guy and what he’s done for baseball globally and the fans he’s attracted around the world, the last thing they want is for him to be somebody who’s involved in betting on his own games and maybe doing things that he wasn’t supposed to do. 

“I think they were very smart to get that under the rug as quickly as possible and say that he had nothing to do with it, and basically have this other guy take the fall for everything.”


Donaghy also doesn’t believe Mizuhara never bet on baseball, considering investigators found he placed about 19,000 bets between December 2021 and January 2024, which comes out to about 25 per day. 

Mizuhara bet an average $12,800 per bet, with ranges between $10 and $160,000. 

Ippei Mizuhara looks up

Japanese interpreter Ippei Mizuhara attends a press conference at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, California on December 14, 2023. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

“I think absolutely,” Donaghy said when asked if he believed Mizuhara bet on baseball. “When you look at the amount of bets he was placing, obviously he had some type of addiction. It’s not like he could just turn it off when he had baseball seasons. There’s no doubt in my mind that he not only bet on baseball, he bet on Ohtani’s game, and I think Ohtani was right there with him knowing what he was doing.”

MLB and Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Donaghy’s statement. 

Donaghy isn’t the only one who believes Ohtani played a part in this. Pete Rose, MLB’s all-time hits leader who also has an infamous gambling past, made an eye-popping comment when the scandal first came to light. 

“Well, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I wish I’d have had an interpreter. I’d be scot-free,” Rose said in a video posted to social media just days after things broke. 

Mizuhara is expected to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return per the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. He’s likely to enter the plea at some point in the next few weeks. 

Ohtani with interpreter

Shohei Ohtani, right, of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks to the media with the help of his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during DodgerFest a celebration of the upcoming season with live entertainment, behind-the-scenes experiences, food, drinks and meeting the newest Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 3, 2024.  (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice.”

Estrada added that Mizuhara became Ohtani’s “de facto manager” because of how prevalent he was in his life. His role in Ohtani’s life led him to have access to his bank accounts, having the ability to withdraw money to finance his gambling habits. 

During an investigation, federal authorities found Mizuhara stole an estimated $17 million, which he will be required to pay Ohtani back as a condition of the plea agreement. 

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said through a new interpreter prior to the Dodgers’ final spring training game. “And never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.

Shohei Ohtani and Tim Donaghy side by side

Disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy believes there’s no way Shohei Ohtani didn’t know about Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling scandal.  (Getty Images)


“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this.”

Ohtani is the highest-paid player in MLB after agreeing to a historic 10-year, $700 million contract in free agency to join the Dodgers. 

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