From BR Bullpen
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 215 lb.
- High School Kobe Koryo High School
Katsuhiro Maeda was an unimpressive pitcher in both Japan and the USA who made waves as one of the first Japanese players to cross the ocean.
Clocked as fast as 96 mph while pitching for Prince Hotels in the industrial leagues, Maeda was picked by the Seibu Lions in the second round of the 1992 NPB draft. He was 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA for Seibu in 1993, striking out 21 but walking 17 in 17 innings over 12 games. In 1994, Katsuhiro went 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA. In 20 innings (11 games), he again had 21 K's and 11 walks, while allowing 25 hits, hardly the unhittable fireballer. He walked six and allowed two hits in 1 2/3 IP for the 1995 Lions to finish his NPB career with a 0-2, 4.89 record and 40 walks and 42 K in 38 2/3 innings.
Maeda and agent Don Nomura demanded a trade to the US following the 1995 season, at which point Hideo Nomo was the lone Japanese player in America. Despite his poor track record, the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox all sought him out. The Yankees won the battle, acquiring Maeda for $350,000, and they signed him to a $1.5 million bonus. It was the first trade between a NPB and MLB team in 32 years.
Maeda dyed his hair hot pink, silver or purple at times during his first year in the US. He had a 1-1, 3.00 line for the GCL Yankees, a 4.22 ERA in two starts for the Tampa Yankees and went 3-2 with a 4.05 ERA for the Norwich Navigators. He cut his walk total down to 21 in 53 1/3 IP but only struck out 30. Baseball America still rated him as the #5 prospect in the Yankee system, right ahead of Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman.
In 1997, he spent all year with Norwich and had a 8-10, 4.56 record. He walked 62 and fanned 76 in 124 1/3 innings of work. The next season, Kazuhiro was 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA and one save for Norwich, walking 31 and striking out 27 in 37 1/3 relief innings. He also made 13 appearances with the Columbus Clippers, posting a 2.51 ERA and 0-1 record; he walked 8 and struck out 16 in 14 1/3 IP.
Maeda spent all of 1999 with Norwich and went 3-2 with one save and a 4.34 ERA. He walked 40 and struck out 48 in 76 2/3 IP. In 2000, he split the year between Norwich (2-2, 4.80, 44 BB and 54 K in 50 2/3 IP) and Columbus (2 runs in 2 innings).
Returning to Japan, Katsuhiro signed with the Chunichi Dragons but failed to make the parent club and retired from Japanese baseball. He then moved to Taiwan's Sinon Bulls, going 3-4 with 5 saves and a 4.25 ERA in 24 games in 2002. In 2003, he went to Italy's Italeri Fortitudo Bologna and went 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA, fanning 85 in 60 innings.
Maeda then went to the Shanghai Golden Eagles of the China Baseball League and was 5-0 with a 3.62 ERA in 2004. He moved to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2005 in the industrial leagues. In 2008, he was in the Shikoku-Kyūshū Island League.