Ippei Mizuhara might be the most important name in baseball you’ve never heard.
Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter plays an increasingly important role in communication between the Los Angeles Angels star, his team, MLB media and baseball fans. Monday night, he’ll be catching for Ohtani when he participates in the Home Run Derby as part of MLB All-Star festivities in Denver, Colorado. So, who is Shohei Ohtani’s translator?
Ippei Mizuhara has never played organized baseball before. But when you get an opportunity to catch for one of the MLB’s brightest stars during the HR Derby, you grab a glove, don some catcher’s gear and figure it out.
Such is the level of trust between Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter. There was no one else Ohtani would rather have on the field with him for his MLB All-Star debut. Luckily, it won’t be the first time Mizuhara has squatted down behind home plate. In the offseason, he occasionally catches some of Ohtani’s bullpen sessions.
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Mizuhara’s name is especially relevant in light of Stephen A. Smith’s bigoted comments, which the ESPN personality has since apologized for. Mizuhara has been doing an admirable job as an English/Japanese translator throughout Ohtani’s rise to MLB stardom.
The duo has been working together for five years, which means Mizuhara had a front-row seat to watch Ohtani take the baseball world by storm. He eats breakfast with the MLB home run leader most days. Recently, he admitted to FOX Sports that while he knew Ohtani was talented, even he is surprised by Sho-Time’s quick two-way success. Like many baseball insiders, Mizuhara thought it might take longer for his client to adjust to the big leagues.
The 36-year-old Mizuhara grew up in Diamond Bar, California, a half-hour drive from Angel Stadium. However, his Japanese pride outweighed his local roots when it came to his favorite team growing up. His allegiance belonged to the Seattle Mariners thanks to baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki, who was born and raised in Japan.