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Manny Barrera, 18, shown graduating from Escondido’s Del Lago Academy, is determined to work in the sports business. He’s started a podcast which focuses on how others overcame their challenges to succeed. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: A contagious can-do spirit helps bring in new year

After a year centered on what people can’t do, well, we can’t wait to meet Manny Barrera.

You know why?

“Because Manny can,” Barrera said.

That’s a promise that comes with passion.

Barrera possesses more want-do than most 18-year-olds. His engine is constantly revved, refusing to let potholes stall his dream of being involved in athletics.

For Barrera’s buddies, that translates into playing whatever sport is in season. It means running, jumping, diving and being in constant motion.

But Barrera, to some, has been dealt a bum hand with a disease that often restricts him to a wheelchair.

Hell on wheels? Not exactly, because Barrera’s refreshing attitude provides a slice of heaven on earth.

“If Manny can, anyone can,” Barrera said.

Barrera, a Palomar College freshman, produces the podcast “Manny Can!” It digs into the backgrounds of people, unearthing what motivated others to persevere, much like Barrera has.

Barrera admits it’s a work in progress.

“I can’t quite afford an engineer,” he said with his contagious smile.

Solana Beach’s John Kentera, a 97.3 The Fan talk show host, is featured in an upcoming episode.

Other notables are in the pipeline, but Barrera doesn’t want to jinx anything.

Instead of what’s confirmed, Barrera is always thinking of what’s ahead.

“I’m getting my emails out to potential guests,” Barrera said.

With Barrera’s good fortune, in his eyes, he’ll soon have a waiting list of subjects.

When Barrera was 4, his body was unexpectedly and suddenly invaded by mucopolysaccharidoses, a metabolic condition that attacked his bones and skeleton, leading to surgeries on his spine, hip and knees.

That meant countless bus rides with his supportive mother, Silvina, to Rady’s Children’s Hospital. But pity never accompanied them.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I must be pretty special,’ ” Barrera said, with a comedian’s delivery. “Only one person out of 300,000 gets it.”

Maybe that’s why few stand taller, or carry more weight, than Barrera does at 39 inches and 53 pounds.

Maybe that’s why Barrera stood out at Mission Middle School years ago at an assembly attended by NFL players. One of them grabbed Barrera’s ride and pushed him into the conga line with the other students.

It was difficult to tell who enjoyed dancing more, Barrera or his new friend.

His name was Luck, of course, as in Andrew, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback.

Now Barrera hunts for anyone with a story to tell. Good luck matching Barrera’s tale, which tugs at the heart but also points listeners in the right direction.

Barrera can be found at

“I’ve heard what I can’t do my whole life,” Barrera said. “So, I figured if Manny can, anyone can.”

Amen and already we like 2021 better.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him at jparis_sports

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