An elbow injury limited Colvin's playing time on the gold-medal-winning team, but it was an eye-opening experience for the outfielder, who was the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in June 2006.
"It's a different culture over there," Colvin said. "They're getting a little Americanized. They had McDonald's, which I loved. I went there every day. They have great fans, and they really got into it with the drums and all the little chants. They had leaders in each section who led the chants."
Just ordering food was an adventure.
"It was like playing Pictionary," said Colvin, who had trouble convincing them to hold the mayo. "[Eating McDonald's every day] wasn't good for my body. I felt it every day."
He did take pictures, although there wasn't too much time for sightseeing. What about jet lag?
"The flight back was a lot easier," Colvin said. "The one there, you're excited and I wanted to stay up. I couldn't do it. It was so long, 14 hours or so. I watched a couple movies, did Sudoku, I tried it all. It didn't help."
He injured his elbow on the third or fourth day of practice, and was limited to a couple fames.
"I was there obviously as a backup, and I accepted that role and that was fine," Colvin said. "They had Colby Rasmus in center, and a bunch of good guys out there. I wasn't expecting much playing time, but it was fun to be part of it."
This spring is Colvin's second in the big league camp, and he's more comfortable.
"It's a really nice experience," said the outfielder, who batted .306 at Class A Daytona last year, and .291 at Double-A Tennessee. "Last year was an eye opener [in Spring Training]. I did some stuff last year and was excited about how I played. This year, I'm coming in with a chance, and I'm competing and trying to win a job."
That's right -- he wants to win a job on the big league team.
"I have to come in here and try to earn a job," Colvin said. "I'm not going to be content with, 'Oh, I'll just go back to the Minor Leagues and play there and wait for the phone call.' I want to contribute now to the Cubs."
Snowbird: Billy Petrick had a tough time finding someplace to throw that wasn't covered in snow this offseason. Petrick, who lives in Morris, Ill., was able to convince some of his old coaches to work out with him.
"I'd go anywhere I could -- the local high school, the field house," he said. "Anywhere I could find."
Petrick pitched at all levels last season, moving up from Daytona, where he had a 3.09 ERA in six games, to Tennessee, where he was 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 18 games. He threw 12 1/3 scoreless innings over his final seven games with the Smokies.
On June 26, Petrick was called up to the big leagues and made his Major League debut the next day. He retired the first three batters he faced before serving up a two-run homer to Colorado's Garrett Atkins with two outs in the eighth.
But Petrick had to be shut down at the end of the season because of tightness in his right shoulder. He thinks the problem was simply overwork.
"It was just my time in Chicago, and all the throwing I was doing at that point, I think it just caught up with me," he said. "Being a couple years out of surgery, that was my first full year, and it might have taken its toll at the end of the year. It's ready to go this spring."
Petrick had shoulder surgery at the end of the 2005 season and appeared in 10 games, totaling 52 2/3 innings, in 2006.
This offseason, Petrick gave himself time to heal, then started his throwing program and is healthy now.
"I still think I can end the year a lot better than I did last year," he said. "I got a little taste of it last year, and that's where I want to be this year."
Welcome back: Micah Hoffpauir could only watch as other Cubs Minor League players were called up last year. The first baseman would've gotten the call, but a knee injury in July ended his season early.
"I was running around third base," he said of the game July 2 with Triple-A Iowa. "[Geovany] Soto hit a double into the gap, and I was at second, and I was going to walk home. I came around third base and didn't take a bad step or anything but felt a pop in my knee. It was kind of a freak accident."
He had surgery July 13 in Chicago and was then sent home to rehab. The injury couldn't have come at a worse time -- Hoffpauir was hitting .319 for Iowa with 16 homers and 73 RBIs.
"You definitely think about it," he said of the missed opportunity, "but it comes back to that old saying of controlling the things you can control. The way I look at it is if I continue to play, and continue to do the things I've done, then I'll get a shot, whether it's with the Cubs or somebody else. I just have to go out and play hard."
Was he bummed?
"Not really," Hoffpauir said. "It's one of those things where you can let it eat you up inside, or do what you have to do to get back. I had enough of a taste of it last year in Spring Training that I know that's where I want to be and I know that's where I want to play, and I feel like I'm capable. If I do what I'm supposed to do, then I feel I'll get my chance."
Last spring, Hoffpauir, 27, was a last-minute addition to the Cubs' big league spring camp. This year, Hoffpauir has been one of the early birds.
"I had plenty of time to prepare this year," he said, laughing. "It was definitely good to know I was coming and not to have a surprise like last year."
What they're saying: "Jeff's got an outstanding arm. Last year, pitching a full season in the Minor Leagues under his belt, he learned a lot about professional baseball. I think here in camp we'll give him a good look and see, let him gain some experience. I wouldn't be surprised if sometime this summer, he'll be ready for the big leagues." -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella, on former Notre Dame wide receiver and current pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who is entering his second spring
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.