The Raiders are about five weeks away from the start of training camp in Napa. In preparation for camp, the field on which they will practice has gotten a bit of a facelift.
The past few days "Raiders Field" at Redwood Middle School in Napa has had a landscaping crew pulling up old grass and replacing a strip across the middle of the field with new sod which will have the bulk of the summer to take hold and be ready once the Raiders begin camp.
Caring for this field is only part of overall job held by Raiders' new groundskeeper, Tom Howe, but this field carries special meaning for him as he spent 35 years in the Napa Valley Unified School District before becoming the Raiders' head groundskeeper last February.
Howe is a Napa native and has been a diehard Raiders fan for the team's entire existence. He recalls how much of a dream come true it was when the team returned from Los Angeles in 1995 and began holding their training camp in his hometown.
"When they moved back in '95 I had no idea that they would train in Napa," Howe told the Napa Valley Register last January. "But John Herrera and Al Davis were looking for a place that had a field and a hotel. Well, it was easy to find a nice field with no hotel, but finding a hotel with access to a field was different. The field at Redwood Middle School was only a fence away from the Marriott and they picked that spot."
One of the concerns presented to the new regime when they came in last off-season was the health of their players and how it may be affected by the surface on which the team had been practicing. The team's practice surface wasn't something on which Al Davis put a lot of emphasis as evident by the team never having a full time groundskeeper. The work was outsourced to a local company and it didn't yield ideal results.
Under Howe's guidance, the practice fields at the facility in Alameda has been given some extra TLC this off-season as well. It's the kind of attention the practice field, the players themselves, and the team as whole deserves.