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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, speaks to the media with help from interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during DodgerFest at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (File photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-ɫ̳/ SCNG)
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, speaks to the media with help from interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during DodgerFest at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (File photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-ɫ̳/ SCNG)
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By David Downey | Contributing Writer

Update: The Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara on Wednesday, March 20, after allegations of illegal gambling and theft. .

Not long after began mesmerizing Southern California baseball fans with his prowess on the pitching mound and at the plate, Tyler Baugh got a text message from one of his best friends.

The friend was watching Ohtani pitch on TV when an Angels coach walked out for a chat.

For update, see: Bookie at center of gambling scandal thought link to Ohtani would help business

He did a double take when he noticed who joined them at the mound. Could that be one of his friends from high school?

The friend snapped a cell phone photo and texted it to Baugh.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, and interpreter...

    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara drive into Camelback Ranch for spring training baseball workouts in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, left, talks with interpreter...

    The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, left, talks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara as he waits to hit during batting practice Friday, July 7, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto,...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, right, walk to the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara is second from left. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) waves to fans as he enters the field before a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Phoenix, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    Los Angeles Angels player Shohei Ohtani, left, stands in the dugout with interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara before a game in Anaheim on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, right, stands in the...

    The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, right, stands in the dugout with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Anaheim on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, walks with interpreter...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, walks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara to batting practice during spring workouts at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, walks with interpreter...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, walks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara to batting practice during spring training workouts at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, poses for a...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, poses for a photo next to the Los Angeles Rams’ mascot and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara before a football game between the Rams and New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, attends a Los Angeles Rams football game with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter for baseball star Shoehei Ohtani, is seen in the 2003 Diamond Bar High School yearbook. (Courtesy of Diamond Bar High School)

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Andrew Friedman, second from left, speaks in front of, from left, Guggenheim Partners Chairman Mark Walter, Shohei Ohtani and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during a Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, news conference at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, right, listens to a question during a news conference at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, on the first day of spring training workouts for the Dodgers. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, right, speaks to the media at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, the first day of the team’s spring training workouts. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, bottom, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara take part in spring training workouts at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, left, and translator Ippei Mizuhara walk to batting practice at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani talks to interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, center, and his agent Nez Balelo before a Los Angeles Rams game Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Inglewood. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, speaks to the...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, right, speaks to the media with help from interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during DodgerFest at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (File photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-ɫ̳/ SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani is visited on the...

    Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani is visited on the mound by pitching coach Matt Wise during a game against the Houston Astros in Anaheim on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. His interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, center, translates. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani poses for a portrait...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani poses for a portrait on team photo day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. His interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, is at left. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, center, talks with interpreter...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, center, talks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, left, and his agent Nez Balelo before a Los Angeles Rams game Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023 in Inglewood. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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    The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani talks with Dino Ebel through translator Ippei Mizuhara during a game at the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (File photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/SCNG)

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    The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani points at interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in the dugout before a game at the Oakland Coliseum on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area ɫ̳ Group)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara take part in spring training workouts at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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    Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, right, is seen Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. Mizuhara loved soccer and video games while a student at Diamond Bar High School. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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“He said, “Am I tripping out? Is that Ippei?” Baugh recalled.

Sure enough, the young man translating for one of the world’s most popular baseball players was the kid they played video games and soccer with, and sat next to in Coach Kemp Wells’ English class at Diamond Bar High School: Ippei Mizuhara.

Mizuhara, who graduated from the east Los Angeles County school in 2003, helped Ohtani communicate with managers, coaches, teammates and the news media while he played for the Angels. Now he is performing that role during spring training in Arizona as Ohtani prepares for .

Mizuhara, through Dodgers’ spokesperson Jon Weisman, declined to be interviewed.

Ohtani after starring in Japan and he speaks mostly Japanese — though he surprised many recently by in English.

Mizuhara translates Ohtani’s Japanese to English, then others’ English to Japanese for Ohtani.

But Mizuhara is more than an interpreter. He is an inseparable close friend of Ohtani’s and a fixture in the dugout.

He often catches the star’s bullpen sessions, .

He plays catch with Ohtani during pregame warmups. He during 2021 All-Star Game festivities.

And the two frequently spar in video games, the alumni report states.

Mizuhara drove Ohtani to and from the stadium early on, the report added. That is, until the star got his driver’s license after his second season in Anaheim.

Mizuhara even made grocery runs for Ohtani during , when players were advised to stay home to avoid becoming infected with the virus, according to the alumni report.

Translating for Ohtani isn’t Mizuhara’s first such gig.

He earlier served as interpreter for Boston Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima. He also worked in his native Japan, translating for English-speaking players on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball club, the report said.

Now Mizuhara is translating for the game’s first two-way star in almost a century. Ohtani not only is an exceptional hitter with power, he is a dominant pitcher. But, because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Ohtani is expected to focus on hitting this season.

Already, Ohtani has won two most valuable player awards.

“Ohtani’s obviously much more well known,” Baugh said. “But, for those of us who hung out with him in high school, it’s crazy that Ippei is translating for him.”

Baugh said that cell phone image of Mizuhara standing next to Ohtani on the mound caught him by surprise.

“Not that he couldn’t do it. It’s just not something you would have thought of.”

Or anyone else back at Diamond Bar High.

“No one could have envisioned that he was going to be the translator for a multimillion-dollar baseball player,” said Kemp Wells, head coach of the school’s soccer team today and assistant varsity coach two decades ago.

Wells said Mizuhara was the team’s backup goalie during Mizuhara’s senior year and didn’t play a whole lot for the varsity soccer team.

“He always showed up for practice and worked hard, I remember that.”

Wells learned of Mizuhara’s work with Ohtani from Baugh, while the two were playing a pickup soccer game during the pandemic.

Baugh, who also graduated in 2003, lives in Brea and teaches at San Antonio High School in Claremont.

He’s thrilled by his friend’s success.

“Honestly, I think it’s super cool,” Baugh said. “I’m happy for him.”

Baugh fondly remembers playing soccer and football with Mizuhara and others during lunch hour at Diamond Bar High, and video game sessions with Mizuhara at Baugh’s house.

They met in middle school, Baugh said.

Baugh recalled a “sleepover” event at his family’s house with 10 to 12 friends, including Mizuhara.

He remembered Mizuhara running and jumping onto Baugh’s bed hard enough to break the box spring. That’s the first thing that came to mind when Baugh told his dad about Mizuhara’s high-profile job, he said. His father asked if the guy translating for Ohtani was the same kid who had broken his bed.

Mizuhara and Baugh played on a youth soccer team together, with Mizuhara as the goalie, Baugh said.

In their senior year at Diamond Bar High, Baugh and Mizuhara took an English class taught by the soccer coach. Friends who played on the team were in the class, too.

Baugh said he and some friends caused minor disruptions in class, making random noises and telling jokes.

“We weren’t bad, we were just, I guess, goofy,” Baugh said.

Mizuhara sat with them.

“I would say he was more of an observer of situations,” Baugh said. “He wasn’t necessarily the one who was cracking jokes.”

Looking back, Baugh said, that trait of carefully observing people likely serves Mizuhara well today when he translates.

Wells, the teacher and coach, remembered that Mizuhara and his friends sat at a table along the wall. Wells described him as “a quieter kid” who was respectful, worked hard and “didn’t cause any problems.”

Wells couldn’t help but think of that English class when he learned of Mizuhara’s unique vocation.

His first thought was, “he was so quiet in class, I can’t believe that he is the translator. Not that he doesn’t know the language. He was just so quiet in class.”

“And I’m like, good for him,” Wells said.

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