Who is Ippei Mizuhara? Everything to Know About Japanese Shohei Ohtani’s Link to America

Published 12/19/2023, 12:20 PM EST

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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ newest two-way acquisition, Shohei Ohtani, is adept at everything except one: he doesn’t know the language of the league he plays in. Japan-born Ohtani’s love for his heritage and culture has deep roots that spread across the borders of America and reach far back home in Oshu, Iwate. It makes sense why Shotime would prefer using his native language as well. That is where his friend and interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, shines.

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Mizuhara has gained fame for being Ohtani’s constant companion for the longest time. The linguist follows the ace virtually everywhere to make sure that Ippei translates Ohtani’s values and intentions with sincerity in press conferences, interviews, and team meetings. Thus, it needs to be brought to light the history of such an impactful compatriot to the world’s best baseball player!

Who is Ippei Mizuhara: The famous translator of $700 million Shohei Ohtani

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$700 million isn’t a small amount. Hence, it perfectly fit a player of Shohei Ohtani’s status when the Dodgers acquired him for that value, acquiring Mizuhara as a bonus—or rather, an inescapable addition. His exponential journey with Shotime began when the phenom was 23 years old. Though it marked the most crucial turning point of Mizuhara’s career, that certainly wasn’t the beginning of it.

2007 marks the year when he was first hired by the Boston Red Sox as a baseball interpreter for their Japanese pitcher, Hideki Okajima. After what was soon to become a cherishable journey full of adventures, he went back to his home country to solidify the second step of his career.

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Mizuahara traveled to Japan in 2013 to work for the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s NPB team, for one of their American players, Chris Martin. Speaking about traveling back, where did the Dragoman have his roots before he entered MLB? Did it involve the sport before his career took off?

Was Ippei Mizuhara also an athlete? A background overview of Mizuhara’s life before the diamond

Born in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, in the year 1984, Mizuhara migrated to the City of Angels in 1991. Having spent his childhood in the county of Diamond Bar, he finished college near Riverside, California, back in 2007. Despite living close to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Mizuhara did not develop an interest in baseball until the debut of the Japanese sensation Hideo Nomo in the Dodgers’ dugout back in 1995.

“I was right in the middle of Nomo Fever,” he recalled, going on to reveal that he started watching MLB ever since that happened. His fondness for the sport grew over the following years, especially during Ichiro Suzuki’s time on the Mariners team, whom Mizuhara religiously followed until his fated tie-up with Shohei Ohtani finally took place.

His first meeting with Shohei Ohtani: The day that laid the base for a strong partnership

Mizuhara met Ohtani for the first time when he traveled to Japan for NPB. Shotime was just 18 years old back then. Mizuhara recalled that moment in an interview with Sports Illustrated: “When I first saw him I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s unreal.’” However, the duo’s tie-up did not happen until 2017, when the Angels hired him to act as Ohtani’s personal interpreter.

Since then, the two have nurtured a dynamic bond between them, which Mizuhara likes to tag as “kind of friends” and more of a professional partnership. Intriguingly enough, translating is only 10% of the job that he has to do while he stays by his side. “My first priority is to help create an environment where he can concentrate on baseball,” Mizuhara states. Such has been proven in his past interactions with Shotime’s executives as well.

How Much Does Shohei Ohtani’s Translator, Ippei Mizuhara Earn?

From acting as a linguistic bridge between Ohtani and the Angels’ executives, like manager Phil Nevin or former manager Joe Maddon, to personal interactions with teammates who help the Unicorn with coaching tips, Mizuhara has done it all. His scope of work has increased over the years, as his future interactions with Ohtani have proven.

Helping Ohtani practice throws during the side seasons, watching videos of contemporary and rival pitchers, and playing catcher to him in the 2021 Home Run Derby—Mizuhara’s line of duty reaches way beyond the barrier of languages. He has stayed by Shotime’s side through thick and thin, as his support during Ohtani’s recovery period back in 2019–2020 proved.

Mizuhara picked up and dropped off groceries and encouraged Shohei Ohtani to engage with his teammates through a video game, just like any supportive friend would’ve done. “I’m with him 365 days of the year, which I think is different than the other interpreters,” Mizuhara told The Athletic, stating he stays with Shotime during the offseason as well.

He then went on to jokingly state how he spends more time with the two-way phenom than he does with his wife: “It’s going to be tough if you don’t get along on a personal level.” His dedication to the slugger is what proved to be so instrumental in garnering his own brand of global fame and fandom.

A Star on and off the Field: Ippei Mizuhara’s Journey to Fandom

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Shohei Ohtani has been a sensation in Japan since his NPB days; his MLB stardom only solidified that fame further, equipped with his constant displays of love for his homeland. Hence, it was no wonder when Ippei Mizuhara, a Japanese himself, showed up by Ohtani’s side in the Angels’ dugout and became an instant favorite amongst the Angels’ fanbase. The rest was history.

According to Mizuhara, Shotime’s popularity in Japan has reached somewhat of a mythical status by now. “At this point, I think he’s in his own category,” he mused in a GQ interview. “I hear a lot of people wake up to watching Shohei. He’ll hit a home run and it’ll just lighten up the whole country.”

His endless run of contributions to Ohtani’s career is what led to him clinching a recognition of his own: a title created by the Angels to honor his devotion to the yakyū phenom. It was further justified by Ohtani’s honest admittance when he was asked “who was the most helpful” by the team in a Twitter post following the award. To which, Shotime commented, “I think Ippei-san. I always work with him. I think that’s right.”

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“Really Gonna Miss You”: Shohei Ohtani’s Translator Bids Heartfelt Farewell to LA Angels

The fans cannot wait to see them working their magic together on the Dodgers team from next season on!

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Written by:

Shrabana Sengupta

416Articles

One take at a time

"Those who gaze outward dream, but those who turn inward awaken." A pro-writer for MLB EssentiallySports, I’ve been a fan of the New York Yankees since my school days. In my adolescent years, I was introduced to the iconic franchise through one of my beloved Friends characters, Joey.
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Edited by:

Deepanshi Bajaj

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