New Braves infielder finds himself connected to Shohei Ohtani gambling controversy

The Atlanta Braves surprisingly have a connection the recent Shohei Ohtani news.

2024 Seoul Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers
2024 Seoul Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers / Chung Sung-Jun/GettyImages

Major League Baseball didn't expect the Seoul Series to have drama off the field but that is exactly what they got as the Dodgers and Padres squared off in the first series of the 2024 season.

Shohei Ohtani has been the talk of baseball all offseason, but mostly due to the controversy surrounding his record-setting contract with deferrals that allow the Dodgers the chance to field a competitive team.

The baseball world was stunned this week in an entirely different way, as it was announced Ohtani's longtime friend and interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired amidst allegations related to gambling debts owed to a Southern California bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation.

Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers

A spokesperson from Ohtani's camp originally told ESPN that he had transferred funds to help cover Mizuhara's gambling debt. The spokesman presented Mizuhara to ESPN for an interview on Tuesday night, to give Mizuhara the chance to explain details surrounding the story.

However, right before the story could be posted, the spokesperson disavowed Mizuhara's explanation and said Shohei Ohtani's lawyers would issue a statement instead. This statement from Berk Brettler LLP reads, "In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities."

Overnight, the story changed from a friend helping cover a friend's gambling debt to that friend now being the victim of a "massive theft". Rightfully, this raised a lot of questions around the league.

Mizuhara stated he placed bets on international soccer matches, the NBA, the NFL, and college football. He did note that he never bet on baseball as he knows that is highly frowned upon, stating, "I never bet on baseball. That's 100 percent. I knew that rule. ... We have a meeting about that in spring training."

He also clarified that, from his perspective, Ohtani never once bet on any games and simply helped pay off the gambling debt which sat at around $4.5 million.

Sports betting is still illegal in California and Mizuhara stated he was unaware of that fact but "learned his lesson the hard way." But again, that tune changed the next day when he stated Ohtani had no idea of the gambling debts and did not transfer any money to the bookmaker's associate. It's a bit unclear what actually occurred but MLB has opened an investigation to gather more clarity.

Ohtani plans to address the media on Monday but it's unclear how much new information he will be able to provide to fans and media.

Braves infielder David Fletcher connected to Ohtani gambling controversy

So, now that we have context on the situation at hand, what does this have to do with the Atlanta Braves? Well... one of their offseason additions is mentioned as being a part of a poker game that took place in 2021.

This is where Mizuhara reportedly met the bookmaker in question, Mathew Bowyer, for the very first time. Atlanta Braves infielder David Fletcher is said to have been present at this poker game when he was with the Los Angeles Angels. Fletcher was known for being a close friend of Shohei Ohtani while with the Angels.

Fletcher clarified this week that he was not the one who introduced Bowyer and Mizuhara, although the infielder did provide answers on how Bowyer gained access to the poker game, which took place at the team hotel in San Diego. The Atlanta infielder said an acquaintance of his helped Bowyer gain access to the poker game.

Definitely not great to find your name attached to something like this, especially with participants in the game now tied to an MLB investigation. Fletcher did clarify with ESPN he had met Bowyer once but had never placed a bet with his organization.

So, as of right now, Fletcher's involvement is merely related to the first time Mizuhara met Bowyer. It is wild to think there is any Braves connection to this story at all. However, Fletcher being friends with Ohtani does make it interesting.

Atlanta Braves fans probably expected the most news surrounding Fletcher this season to be whether he made the Opening Day roster or if he would make a difference for the team in 2024. I doubt anyone had this on their bingo card for the new MLB season.

Surely there will be more details and clarity as the MLB investigation intensifies. Still, for now, fans are left to their imaginations on what exactly happened and what this means for the parties involved.

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