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Japanese fans sign petition in support of Bobby Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 59-year-old led the team to the Japan Series championship in2005 and has been a fan favorite ever since.

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