CHIBA, Japan (AP) — Bobby Valentine says he won’t be back with the Chiba Lotte Marines next season even as the Japanese team’s fans lobby management to keep him.

Lotte management decided before this season that it could not afford Valentine and would not renew his contract.

That brought protests from Lotte fans, who staged nightly vigils at Chiba Marine Stadium and submitted a petition to Lotte’s front office with more than 100,000 signatures.

The team has struggled this year and is 15 games behind the Pacific League-leading Nippon Ham Fighters.

In a statement on his Web site, Valentine says leaving the team “is best for the Chiba Lotte Marines.”

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


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