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Mabie decided to leave Jacoby a message. In small print on one of the signs, he scribbled, "Leave my signs alone, you bitch."
Kansas City's prince of pallet racks grew up in Independence. He has always been a hustler. His mother died when he was 3, so he went to live with his father; then his father died when he was 16. The William Chrisman High School grad went to work and got an apartment.
He managed shoe stores before going to work for Jacoby in 1992. Six years later, he left Warehouse 1 but stayed in the pallet-rack business, working for Industrial Sales and then Mid-America Lift Truck before opening his own business.
But pallet racks aren't his only gig. The 40-year-old also sells outlaw softball bats.
Mabie was a rec-league player who discovered the wickedness of titanium bats in the early 1990s. Because they rocket baseballs at stitch- and skull-splitting speeds, softball organizations started banning titanium from organized play in 1993. Mabie, though, was a titanium junkie. Bat companies quit making them, but Mabie started buying them on eBay. When he saw a vintage titanium bat sell for $2,000 in an auction, he saw a chance to make some money.
"I decided, you know, if they made the bats before, I can make them again."
Mabie wasn't interested in the approval of softball's governing bodies. He just wanted to make a badass bat.
To make his first bat, he says, he reverse-engineered the best titanium bats of the '90s, an effort that put him about $20,000 in the hole. First, he had to find the titanium; then he made prototypes that sent balls into orbit, but their end caps kept popping off. Finally, Mabie offered a couple of guys with engineering experience a piece of the action to help him finish his creation.
First came the Maximus, in 2003. It was a limited edition (only 1,000 exist), high-performance, double-wall titanium rocket launcher. "I thought that bat was the greatest bat made, and that's why I named it that," Mabie says. He sold the Maximus online for $599.
Calling his company Toloso Sports, he used midgets, babes and sexual innuendo to market the product. "Chicks dig the longball," one ad brags.
In homemade videos, balls disappeared into the atmosphere. The Toloso Web site brags that the Maximus would never pass a Bat Performance Factor test, which measures the speed of the ball coming off the bat.
"I came out and said, 'No, I'm not restricting it. This is the best fucking bat produced. It hits it farther and harder than anything else. If you play with it, you'll get hurt. It's fucking dangerous. That's it."
Toloso's Web site warns that the bats are for batting practice or home-run derbies and not to be used in an actual game. Each one comes with a warning label.
"It says you have to pitch behind a pitching screen," Mabie says. "And anyone who uses it in a game, they're fucked. Every bat that leaves here has got one of those stickers on it."
Mabie's second titanium bat was the Primo, a two-piece, 26-ounce bat with a 13.5-inch barrel, selling for $399.
"The bat is sick," Mabie boasts. "I would not pitch if someone was hitting that bat."
In 2006, Mabie auctioned off the right to be the first to test the Primo. On eBay, softball fanatics paid hundreds of dollars for the opportunity.