Shohei Ohtani’s star power has made him not only one of the biggest phenoms in MLB history, but also one of the world’s most visible athletes, regardless of sport.
By proximity alone, that also makes Ippei Mizuhara one of the most visible people on the planet. The long-time English- and Japanese-speaking interpreter has become a mainstay in baseball circles the world over, helping to translate for Ohtani as the superstar works on improving his English.
Language barriers are nothing new for MLB players, and they have been the smallest of hurdles for Ohtani amid the All-Star’s skyrocketing baseball career. And Mizuhara is much more than a simple translator for the world’s top baseball player.
Here’s everything you need to know about Mizuhara, including his relationship with Ohtani, his career as an interpreter, his interest in baseball and more:
Who is Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter?
The Angels signed Mizuhara as Ohtani’s interpreter after Ohtani was posted to MLB by NPB’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters following the 2017 season.
Mizuhara has served in that role ever since, though he did briefly resign from his position during the 2021-22 MLB lockout so he could continue communications with Ohtani. (He re-signed with the Angels after the lockout.)
Among Mizuhara’s roles are the typical tasks of translating for Ohtani in news conferences and media scrums. He told Nippon.com in October 2021 that, while he and Ohtani are “kind of like friends,” their relationship is more akin to a professional partnership.
“My first priority is to help create an environment where he can concentrate on baseball,” Mizuhara said.
But, as detailed by Sports Illustrated, it also entails translating more insulated moments: interactions with teammates in the clubhouse and detailed coaching tips. He even acts as a middle man between Ohtani and Angels manager Phil Nevin. He did the same with former manager Joe Maddon, who said Mizuhara held a “crucial role.”
His position has expanded beyond simply translating: he also helps on the baseball side, throwing to Ohtani in side sessions, watching tape of opposing pitchers and studying scouting reports. He also served as Ohtani’s catcher in the 2021 Home Run Derby and joined Japan’s national baseball team — also known as Samurai Japan — for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, which Japan won with Ohtani on the mound.
As reported by Sports Illustrated, he picked up Ohtani’s groceries as the player recovered from injuries in 2019 and 2020, and encouraged him to download a game on his phone to better connect with Angels teammates. Mizuhara told The Athletic that speaking accounts for only 10 percent of his job alongside Ohtani.
“I’m with him all offseason, too,” Mizuhara told The Athletic. “I’m with him 365 days of the year, which I think is different than the other interpreters.”
“It’s such a big part (of the job),” he added. “We are together pretty much every day, longer than I’m with my wife, so it’s going to be tough if you don’t get along on a personal level.”
Mizuhara’s involvement with the global phenom has made him something of a fan favorite, particularly in Japan. His Instagram account, which has only a handful of posts, boasts more than 360,000 followers.
He even received a standing ovation during the Angels’ 2023 home opener:
When did Shohei Ohtani, Ippei Mizuhara meet?
Mizuhara’s career as an interpreter and his relationship with Ohtani both date to before Ohtani signed with the Angels. Mizuhara got his first job as a baseball interpreter in 2007 after graduating from college. He was hired by the Red Sox to interpret for pitcher Hideki Okajima, who played in Boston from 2007-11.
Following that, Mizuhara traveled to Japan in 2013 to interpret for the Fighters’ English-speaking players, including Chris Martin. It was during the 2013 season that he met Ohtani, then an 18-year-old rookie with the Fighters.
“I always remember how lucky I am to be in this spot,” Mizuhara told SI. “I’ve known Shohei since he was 18, and when I first saw him I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s unreal.’ That’s got to be the best part of the job, just getting to be in the house and watch him do his thing.”
Mizuhara will continue to work alongside Ohtani after his move across town to the Dodgers. Shortly after Ohtani’s deal became official, he updated his Instagram profile to include a reference to the Dodgers and posted a message thanking Angels fans for their six years together.
“Really really gonna miss you guys, and I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he wrote. “It has been a great pleasure being part of the Angels family.”
Where is Ippei Mizuhara from?
Mizuhara was born in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan, in 1984. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 and was raised in Diamond Bar, Calif. — in eastern Los Angeles County — before graduating college from nearby California-Riverside in 2007.
Despite growing up near Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, Mizuhara didn’t closely follow the team. His interest in baseball began when Hideo Nomo joined the Dodgers in 1995 and became the first Japanese player to appear in an MLB game since Masanori Murakami in 1965.
“I was right in the middle of Nomo Fever,” Mizuhara told SI. “Ever since then, I just watched a lot of MLB.”
Mizuhara also said he followed the Mariners because of Ichiro Suzuki, as he relayed to Bally Sports West in a 2018 interview:
“I was more of a Mariners fan because of Ichiro,” Mizuhara said. “And the Angels were still good at the time, but I always came to the field to watch the Mariners, and maybe the Yankees. And I lived 15 minutes from the field. It’s really cool, now that I’m here. It’s a lot of coincidence.”
Source : ESPN.com