All the Bases
Alan Shelby’s baseball fan newsletter has grown into a don’t-miss daily dose of Rice events.
By Lynn Gosnell
Every morning around 6 a.m., a newsletter from the Rice University Baseball Players Association lands in approximately 2,000 inboxes. The first thing to know about this newsletter is that the title is a misnomer — it is not about Rice baseball, at least not entirely.
In fact, the daily email includes news about select Rice sports — depending upon the season — but also general faculty, staff and student news; awards and honors; alumni updates and obituaries; a trivia contest; and items that defy categorization. The creator and longtime editor of this eclectic news source is Alan Shelby — a Houstonian who attended the University of Pennsylvania and whose career, before becoming a volunteer news editor, has spanned international banking and real estate consulting.
Along with his wife, Nancy, Alan started attending Rice baseball games as guests of Karen George ’77, ’78 and her husband, Larry, more than two decades ago. “Nancy was in banking, and she had separate business relationships with Karen and Larry,” he recalls. “When Karen found out that we were interested in baseball, she invited us to Rice baseball games, and we got hooked immediately.” So hooked, in fact, that in 2006, Shelby had the idea to launch an email newsletter to share news about Rice baseball players who had turned pro. “I thought if I was interested, other members of the Rice community would be interested as well,” he says.
The first thing to know about this newsletter is that the title is a misnomer — it is not about Rice baseball, at least not entirely.
The “Rice Update” was launched with a circulation of six — including the Georges and other baseball friends. It tracked the whereabouts of three Owls who’d turned pro — plus one alumnus who was noted as “gone fishing.” Shelby kept at it, and the circulation slowly expanded. By 2009, he joined forces with Steven Herce ’03 and the Rice University Baseball Players Association, helping to develop a new website and establishing a home base for his now-daily newsletter, which had begun to broaden beyond its original fan focus. In addition to expanding sports coverage, Shelby added campus news, events and performances — and select obituaries. “People are very appreciative to see the obituaries,” he observes. “Some people said, ‘You know, if it weren’t for the Update, I wouldn’t have known about this person passing.’”
Another popular and interactive feature of the newsletter is the long-running trivia contest and leaderboard. Shelby credits subscriber Charlie Vaughters ’03 with the idea to expand the occasional trivia questions into a year-round contest. Every Tuesday and Thursday, new trivia questions go up, and subscribers earn points by answering correctly. When some knowledgeable Owls began to dominate the competition, the diplomatic Shelby rolled out three divisions for different levels of play. At the end of the year, he awards prizes (for example, autographed books by Rice professors or coveted baseball memorabilia) to the top three winners in each division.
While Shelby credits many Rice friends — and especially his wife, Nancy — with keeping both the newsletter and website content relevant, he remains the volunteer-in-charge of both efforts, spending up to three hours daily on this passion project. “The hardest part about doing this is keeping it concise,” he says. “There’s just so much more going on at Rice.”
View the Update’s website and subscribe to the newsletter at rubpa.rice.edu.