Fans gather 100,000 signatures

CHIBA, Japan -- Fans supporting Bobby Valentine have gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition seeking to keep the American as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines beyond the 2009 Japanese baseball season.

The group said in a news release Friday it will submit the petition at the head offices of the Marines on Monday.

The signatures were gathered outside Lotte's home stadium in Chiba, where Marines fans have been holding demonstrations in support of the popular former New York Mets manager.

Valentine, in his seventh season as manager, had been told his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season.

Fans in the right field seats at Chiba Marine Stadium wear T-shirts saying "Bobby 2010" and wave huge signs with slogans such as, "No Bobby, No Marines," and "Always Behind Bobby."

Team president Ryuzo Setoyama announced in the offseason that the team couldn't afford Valentine after this year.

Valentine, 59, led the team to the Japan Series championship in 2005 and has been a fan favorite since.