Fans submit petition for Bobby V

TOKYO -- Fans supporting Bobby Valentine submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the head office of the Chiba Lotte Marines on Monday in a bid to keep the American on as manager beyond the 2009 Japanese baseball season.

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

"It's an honor to have people care about me," Valentine said Monday. "The fans in Chiba are passionately committed and the best you will find."

Asked if he thinks the signature drive will have any affect on changing the minds of the Lotte head office, Valentine said: "I don't know if it will help because I don't make the decisions. But there is only one place I'd like to be if I came back, and that's Chiba."

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.

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

The 59-year-old led the team to the Japan Series championship in 2005 and has been a fan favorite ever since.