The Strike Zone Baseball Academy

Call 847-710-2932


Joe Knudsen

In his twentieth season with The Strike Zone, Joe is always one of our most preferred instructors. He is rapidly becoming one of the top hitting and pitching instructors in the area. Joe is positive and knowledgeable in all phases of the game. Knudsen pitched at Northeastern Illinois University where his team qualified for the Division 1 World Series in 1996 before the school dropped athletics. He then transferred to Wisconsin-Parkside where he worked under the tutelage of former major-leaguer and renowned coach Sal Bando Jr. His work as a coach with Niles West High School and his outstanding performance with various travel programs on the North Shore have earned him National recognition for coaching excellence. Joe is currently the assistant head baseball coach for Evanston High School and is available for students of all ages September through June. You can book lessons with Joe online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.      

General Manager / Instructor

Paul KosinskiPaul Kosinski

Facility Manager
Advanced Pitching / Advanced Hitting

A product of St. Patrick HS and Northern Illinois University, Coach Paul Kosinski enters his fifteenth year as an instructor at the "Zone". A disciple of the legendary pitching instructor Tom House, the former pitcher/centerfielder has established himself as one of the premier pitching instructors in the Chicago area. Dating back to 1992, Coach "K" has a lengthy history as both a high school and youth traveling baseball coach. He has the distinction of having served on the coaching staffs of three IHSA Coaching Hall of Fame Inductees - Kirby Smith at Barrington HS, Dan "Duck" Hogan at Notre Dame HS and Mike Napoleon at New Trier HS. He also serves as Head Coach for the New Trier Thunder and as Director of the New Trier fall ball program. During his six year coaching stint at Notre Dame HS, Coach "K" also ran the Renegades 13YO traveling team. While Coach "K" primarily works with junior high and high school pitchers and catchers, he is also available to work with pitchers and catchers age 10 and up. He currently has over twenty five former players palying at the collegiate level. Please e-mail Paul at if you are interested in taking lessons with him.

Justin Drexler

Advanced Hitting / Pitching / General Skills

Coach Justin Drexler enters his eighth year as an instructor at the Strike Zone. He's been teaching baseball to kids on the North Shore for 7+ years and coached at Glenbrook South High School and is currently an Assistant Varsity Coach at North Shore Country Day High School under Coach Paul Kosinski. His dedication and commitment to fundamental and instruction is outstanding. Justin is extremely positive and enthusiastic. He was the coach for the 9U Waterdogs tournament team. He has been the head coach for 10U-13U for Evanston's Feeder Program. He is now available Monday - Sunday for instruction. Ages - 6 and up. You can book lessons with Justin online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.

Brandon Vamarasi

Hitting / General Skills

Brandon is an Evanston native going into his sixth calendar year coaching youth baseball. A graduate of Evanston Township, he studied English and Philosophy at Lawrence University while also competing at the Division III level. A majority of Brandon’s playing career was spent on the infield, but he also played outfield and catcher at Lawrence. He is a head coach for EBSA during the summer and has transitioned into personalized skill training at The Strike Zone.

Beyond baseball, Brandon’s most valuable skill is his ability to interact positively with youth. A former AmeriCorps member and after-school program leader, his desire to promote learning as well as fun have been a constant. You can book lessons with Brandon online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.

Charlie Prieto

Hitting / Pitching

Charlie Prieto is a life long Evanston/North Shore resident with over 38 years of coaching experience. He was a four year starting pitcher for St. Mary’s College from 1975 – 1979. He started his coaching career in 1981 with Evanston Youth Baseball Association and has been coaching baseball, basketball, and football on the North Shore since then. He has coached at all levels of play, from 5 year old’s through college age players. He has coached with Evanston, Wilmette, and New Trier youth programs as well as full time travel teams. He was on the ETHS baseball coaching staff from 1997 through 2002. He has run numerous camps and clinics for EBSA, Wilmette/Kenn Winn Baseball, as well as The Strike Zone in the past. He is currently coaching in the EBSA travel program. His strengths are hitting and pitching. You can book lessons with Charlie online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.

Dustin DeMars   

Advanced Hitting / Catchers / General Skills

Dustin DeMars has been coaching baseball and doing lessons for the last 8 years, 5 of which have come in the Chicagoland area. Owner and operator of Top Dog Baseball, working with College Players looking to transfer or get professional looks. Dustin played one year of college baseball at Broome Community College in NY then went to play in the Dominican Prospect League. Dustin last played in 2017 for Freseros De San Quinten in the Mexican League. Dustin works with all positions. Primarily focusing on infielders, catchers and hitting. You can book lessons with Dustin online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.


Jake Dahlberg 
The Strike Zone is excited to have the 2 Time pitcher of the year from The University of Illinois-Chicago and former 21st Rd Draft pick of St. Louis Cardinals Jake Dahlberg.
Jake has been playing professional baseball for the last 2 years and along the way he has had the privilege to coach kids in youth baseball and the high school ranks. Jake is a believer in pitching not just throwing hard. Jake believes the mental side of the game is very important to play at the next level. In college Jake was a two way player, pitching and playing all three outfield positions. Jake does a great job working with younger hitters on hitting  mechanics.
You can book lessons with Jake online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.
Wilson Batista 
The Strike Zone is proud to announce Wilson Batista to our coaching staff. A switch hitting shortstop Wilson played 15 years of professional baseball reaching as high as AAA with the New York Mets. Wilson have previously coached in New York and in the Dominican Republic. Wilson specializes in hitting and fielding and has an amazing track record of producing results in young players. You can book lessons with Wilson online at or you can e-mail to inquire about lessons with him.