- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 158 lb.
Hajime Kato pitched for 19 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, making six All-Star teams.
Kato dropped out of college to sign with Dai Showa Seishi in Japan's industrial leagues. Undrafted, he signed with the Nishitetsu Lions in 1971. By 1972, his rookie season, they were relying on him heavily. He went 17-16 in 48 games and 246 innings, with a 3.95 ERA. He led the Pacific League with 114 walks but also made the All-Star team and was named Rookie of the Year.
Hajime was 8-11 with a 4.17 ERA in 1973 and was an All-Star then 12-12 with a 2.95 ERA in 1974, finishing 7th in the PL in ERA, making his third All-Star team. The Shizuoka native went 8-11 again in 1975, with a 4.30 ERA.
Kato moved to the Yomiuri Giants for 1976 and improved to 15-4 with a 3.70 ERA; he struck out 161 in 168 innings while allowing 141 hits. On April 18, he threw a no-hitter against the Hiroshima Carp. He did lead the Central League with 8 wild pitches but made his 4th All-Star squad. He was 9th in the CL in ERA. He struggled in the 1976 Japan Series, with 8 hits, 5 walks and 7 runs in 4 2/3 IP over 4 games, taking the loss in game 3. Yomiuri fell in 7 games to the Hankyu Braves.
Kato was 4-1 with 3 saves and a 2.91 ERA in 13 games in 1977. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) in six innings in the 1977 Japan Series, as Yomiuri lost to Hankyu. In 1978, the right-hander was 8-5 with a 3.61 ERA.
Kato went 7-10 with two saves and a 3.99 ERA in 1979. He made his fifth All-Star team. In 1980, he had a 1-1, 3.67 record in just 27 innings and 13 games. He was back in the rotation by 1981, going 12-6 with two saves and a 2.91 ERA, allowing 133 hits in 158 innings. He finished third in the league in ERA behind Suguru Egawa and Takashi Nishimoto. He gave up one run in 3 2/3 IP in the 1981 Japan Series and finally played on a champion, as the Giants beat the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Kato fell to 4-7 despite a 3.11 ERA in 1982. He battled a circulatory problem in his throwing arm in 1983 and was 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 17 games when healthy. On June 18, he won his 100th career game. He was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA in the 1983 Japan Series, beating the Seibu Lions in game 3 but losing game 4 as Yomiuri fell in 7.
Kato went 10-7 with a 3.36 ERA in 1984, finishing 7th in the circuit in ERA. The veteran was 4-8 with 3 saves and a 3.43 ERA in 1985. He had a 14-5, 2.76 record in 1986, allowing 123 hits in 143 2/3 IP. He made his 6th and last All-Star team. He finished 4th in the circuit in ERA.
Kato was 7-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 1987. In the 1987 Japan Series, he allowed one run in six innings but the Giants were felled by Seibu once again. He was 2-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 14 games in 1988. At age 39 in 1989, Kato allowed 11 runs in 7 innings, going 0-1. He gave up 4 runs in 13 2/3 IP and saved one contest in 1990 to end his pitching career.
Overall, Kato had gonr 141-113 with 22 saves and a 3.50 ERA in 490 games in NPB. He struck out exactly 1,500 in 2,250 innings, allowing 1,987 hits (a .240 average) and 950 walks.
After his playing career ended, Kato was a commentator on television. He also coached for Seibu (1995-1999). He was pitching coach for Taiwan's La New Bears in 2004. In 2006, he went to the Korea Baseball Organization as pitching coach for the LG Twins. He stayed in the KBO with the SK Wyverns in 2007, helping them to the 2007 Korean Series, 2008 Korean Series and 2010 Korean Series titles and setting a new league record for wins in 2008. He helped develop Kwang-hyun Kim in his time with SK. He remained with SK until 2011.