Which Types of Baseballs Sink in Water?


Baseballs in a 5-Gallon Bucket of Water

One scenario most baseball players have had to deal with is when a baseball goes into a body of water. My high school baseball team’s field was right next to a pond and foul balls would consistently find their way into that pond. Sometimes those balls would be retrievable and sometimes they would not be.

Until recently, one question I never really thought about is if those baseballs would sink. So I decided to gather up different types of baseballs and do my own research to find the answer to the question – do baseballs float?

All baseballs float in water, but baseballs made with a leather cover will sink after 30 to 70 minutes of floating in water. Baseballs made with a synthetic leather cover will not sink.

To test if baseballs would float in water, I filled up a 5-gallon bucket with tap water and threw in a couple of baseballs that I had lying around the house. Keep reading to learn more about which types of baseballs stayed afloat and which types of baseballs sunk.

Brand New Leather Baseballs Sink After 37 Minutes of Floating in Water

New Leather Baseball Sinks in Water
Brand new leather baseball sinks after 37 minutes in water

Brand new leather baseballs are what most baseball teams use on game day. They typically come in a box of 12 and they are not cheap.

Most baseball teams would consider these types of baseballs to be the best of the best, and I happened to have a box of these brand new Wilson A1010 Pro Baseballs. For the purpose of this article, I decided to open one up and test out if it would float and to see how long it would take to sink.

My hypothesis was that these types of baseballs would initially float, but then they would sink after being in the water for a few hours.

What I found was that this brand new leather baseball initially floated, but after 37 minutes it sunk to the bottom of my 5-gallon bucket. So I was right in guessing this brand new leather baseball would sink, but I was shocked at just how quickly it absorbed water and sunk.

One other thing I knew from doing research on my other article on how much does a baseball weigh is that a brand new leather baseball is slightly different than a used leather baseball. So I found a used leather baseball and tested out how long it would take to sink.

Used Leather Baseballs Sink After 70 Minutes of Floating in Water

Used Leather Baseball Sinks in Water
Used leather baseball sinks after 70 minutes in water

For most baseball teams, the used leather baseballs they have in the bucket of baseballs consist of baseballs that were used during a previous game. These baseballs are still good for practice after the game, so they tend to find their way into the bucket of practice baseballs.

I had a few of these used Wilson A1010 Pro Baseballs so I tossed one into my 5-gallon bucket of water to see how long it would float. My initial guess was that my used leather baseball would float, but then would sink after being in the water for a few hours.

What I found was that my used leather baseball initially floated, but it sunk to the bottom of my 5-gallon bucket after being in the water for 70 minutes.

So I was right in my initial guess of this used leather baseball floating, but I was surprised that it didn’t need to be in water for hours before it finally sank.

It also came as a surprise to me that used leather baseballs floated for twice as long as brand new leather baseballs. After all, they were the exact same type of baseball and I wasn’t expecting there to be a big time difference between the two.

Synthetic Leather Baseballs Do Not Sink

Synthetic Leather Baseballs Floating in Water
Synthetic leather baseballs floating after 27 hours in the water

In my bucket of used baseballs, I had plenty of baseballs that were made with synthetic leather. I took out a few different types of baseballs that had a synthetic leather cover and placed them in my 5-gallon bucket of water.

The 3 types of baseballs I used were these Adidas Official League baseballs (with a Dick’s Sporting Goods logo), these Flexi Balls from Diamond Sport, and these Wilson Soft Compression baseballs

When I first started this whole experiment, I thought the Adidas Official League baseballs would sink after a few hours because it was very similar to the new and used leather baseballs I was also using. I also thought the Flexi Ball and the soft compression baseball would not float since these are lighter and made differently than traditional leather baseballs.

What I found was that none of the baseballs sunk in water when they were made with a synthetic leather cover. These baseballs were in my 5-gallon bucket of water for over 27 hours and they were all still floating in the water.

The synthetic leather cover on a baseball acts as a barrier that prevents water from absorbing into the baseball.

This result was surprising to me. I never really considered that a synthetic leather baseball was made that differently from a leather baseball, but it turns out that synthetic leather baseballs will always float.

Do Baseballs Absorb Water?

Not all baseballs are made the same. And as it turns out, not all baseballs absorb water the same.

Leather baseballs absorb water fairly quickly and they will sink if they’ve been in water between 30 and 70 minutes. Synthetic leather baseballs absorb some water, but synthetic leather acts as a barrier that prevents water from getting in. Synthetic leather baseballs do not usually sink.

So the next time a leather baseball makes its way into a body of water, make sure you’re quick to retrieve it. Otherwise, it will sink into the water before you know it.

Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball on two different adult baseball teams in the surrounding area.

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